This is the first of a monthly series of blog posts that are reader-inspired.
I receive a lot of emails either asking for more information about certain destinations, or asking questions that are better answered more fully through a blog post. If you have such questions, feel free to email me; I may write a whole post just to answer you!
A reader asked: What do you usually bring when you travel? What’s in your packing list?
Others have asked specifically about my camera, my laptop, or what backpack I use. Rather than answer them separately, I decided to just write this post to share with you my packing list.
Note that all these things may not be applicable to everyone. I work online, so the electronics I have are a must. If you’re a weekend traveler, obviously you don’t need to bring a laptop or a power strip.
Still, I hope that this list will be helpful to those who are thinking of or planning a long-term travel lifestyle. The weight for both bags is around 20 kg. For those who want to travel light, ditch the electronics or bring smaller or lighter ones!
A Long-Term Traveler’s Packing List — My Travel Gear
I have been using a local (Philippines) backpack since 2003 until I left for South America last August. It was certainly sturdy, but for my long-term trip, I wanted something that would open in front and not just at the top. I found it with the Kelty Redwing 40L that I bought through Amazon.
It looks great, it’s small enough (40L as opposed to the 55L I used to bring before) to discourage me from buying unnecessary items, and best of all, there’s no more unpacking everything from city to city. I just open the front compartment and pull out what I need. It’s major convenience for long-term travelers.
Best Day Pack
Some people say that backpackers with two bags look silly; maybe so, if you’re traveling only for two weeks or less! When you’re a long-term traveler, you need two bags. One for your electronics and important items, and another for everything else.
Remember, you need to put your backpack in the luggage compartment of a bus or a train. Would you put your laptop there? Of course not!
For my day pack, I use Hawk. I’ve been using that brand for over a decade now, and I can vouch for its durability. The only reason I replace a Hawk backpack is when I get tired of it and want a new one. It never needs to be repaired, how ever long you’re using it! It will get dirty and frayed, but even after 5 or 6 years, it will still be usable.
If you can’t find a Hawk pack, you can never go wrong with North Face. This North Face Jester Backpack, for example, can fit a 15-in laptop and has a lot of pockets inside. It looks a lot like the day pack that I’m using now.
Other Travel Accessories
I also travel with one set of packing cubes, the same as the one above, a gift from a family member (thanks, Xelca!), less the black bag. They make packing so much easier.
One cube has all my clean shirts and jackets, another has my pants and shorts, another contains my underwear. Dirty clothes are put separately, of course. It beats plastic bags any day. I have another set in gray that I left back home.
Headlamps can be very useful. I especially love the Petzl MYO RXP Headlamp (given to me by a friend, S.D.) as it is pretty powerful and can use rechargeable batteries. I use it during night treks and in caving.
When you’re traveling, you need to have water all the time. The heat and exertion can leave you dehydrated if you’re not careful. Buying small bottled water, however, can add up, so I always bring my Nalgene water bottle (mine’s the second one from left).
I usually buy 2.5L of bottled water and then just refill my Nalgene to take with me wherever I go. Definitely budget- and eco-friendly.
A Swiss knife is highly useful, which is why I also have one. There’s so much I can do with it, from opening packets and soda bottles, to cutting my nails. I bring it all the time, just in case I get stranded in the jungle. You never know, right?
Remember to put this in your checked baggage though. Knives are not allowed in carry-ons.
When you’re traveling, you need padlocks for sure, especially if you’re staying in shared rooms. The Master Lock is good, but you don’t need this particular one, any sturdy lock will do. I always bring two: one for my bag and another for the lockers in hostels.
You might say I’m paranoid, or not trusting enough, but when you’re traveling, you meet all sorts of people, and some will not hesitate to steal your things if you make it too easy for them. Truth.
When you’re in a bus for 14 hours or more, having a pillow really helps. Before, I would just use my jacket…but that was in Asia. In South America, where the elevation makes it cold most of the time, I use my jacket as a blanket and am grateful that I have an inflatable pillow. Pretty useful, I must say.
I would never go out during the day without sunglasses. It helps protect my eyes from the sun’s heat + debris flying around. You don’t need anything expensive; if you’re backpacking, it might just get stolen.
The one I’m wearing now costs US$1, bought from a street vendor in Jaipur, India. If you’re into quality stuff, though, check out this cool Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses.
A Long-Term Traveler’s Packing List — My Electronics and Gadgets
As a freelancer, I always need to bring my laptop when I travel. It’s a non-negotiable. I had considered buying a Mac, but it was way beyond my budget. Besides, I didn’t want the risk of losing it while I’m traveling.
I initially bought a Lenovo, but after less than 2 weeks of being used, the motherboard fried (OMG! I thought Lenovo was supposed to be one of the best!). Since I didn’t have time to have it repaired, I just bought a new one, a Dell Inspiron 14-in which I’m really happy about. It’s not as light as a Mac, but it works great.
As an avid reader, I can finish 5 books a week, so traveling with real books would be a nightmare for me. I can’t imagine lugging 10 or so books during my travels! My solution? A Kindle, of course. Gone are the days when I have to bring big and heavy books around; with just one slim Kindle that I can put even in my pants pocket, I can bring thousands of books with me.
There are Black Friday deals now in Amazon (up to November 30 only), where a Kindle only costs $49. That’s a really big discount!
I didn’t buy an iPad Mini, my mother and sister gave me this, and I’m grateful. It’s so useful! I have Spotify in it, and I also have all the social media apps. When my (old) Samsung Duos acts up and tells me that internal memory is full (despite my having to erase everything I could), the iPad Mini comes to the rescue.
Maybe one of these days, I’ll buy an iPhone. What do you think?
This is a very common question: what camera am I using? Or: what is the best travel camera? I think my readers like my pictures. (Yay!) I’m using Nikon D3100, an entry-level camera that I bought sometime in 2008. I love it, though I have to admit I still don’t know its full capacity.
I’m only using the kit lens, nothing else, which is a good thing because it was already broken three times. I had to replace the original when it got wet while I was river crossing, had the second one repaired after it fell off a motorbike in Surigao del Norte, and then repaired for the second time when it fell off a bus seat in La Paz, Bolivia. Body’s okay, which tells you a lot about its durability!
As an online worker, I also need to have a power strip. There are some hostels and hotels with very limited electrical sockets, and I didn’t want to have to fight other people for a spot, so I brought an extension cord.
Too bad though that I didn’t see this portable international travel voltage converter before I left the Philippines. I would have bought it. It’s a power strip, converter, and adaptor all in one. Talk about space saving!
I also bring with me an external hard drive (now you know why my bags weigh 20 kg). Where else would I back up all my files and photos? I’m considering buying cloud storage, but probably when I’m in the US when I have time to upload all my files.
A Long-Term Traveler’s Packing List — My Clothes and Other Accessories
The following seems a lot, but I don’t have much, really. The duplication is for layering from the cold. Remember, I’ll be spending the winter in the US, and without layering, I would freeze.
I actually just have enough clothes for a week, which means I need to wash every day. To summarize, I have:
- 1 jacket
- 1 windbreaker
- 1 sweater
- 1 pullover
- 1 cardigan
- 5 shirts (which will explain why I’m wearing almost the same shirts in my photos), most of which are drifit so that they’re easy to wash and dry quickly.
- 2 trekking pants, one of which is convertible to shorts
- 2 pairs of shorts — 1 for sleeping, 1 for city wear
- 1 pair of jeans (couldn’t resist to bring one, though it’s heavy)
- 1 pair of leggings
- 5 underwear
- 5 pairs of socks
- 2 handkerchiefs
- 1 microfiber towel
- 1 scarf
- 1 bonnet — a gift from Hazel, a friend in Belgium
- 1 pair of gloves — bought in Tupiza, Bolivia
- 1 pair of New Balance sneakers — I use it all the time, even for trekking!
- 1 pair of Merrell walking sandals
- 1 pair of Islander slippers — for use in the bathroom
- 1 pair of Havaianas slippers — for city wear. I bought it in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- 1 umbrella
- 1 rain poncho — given to me by Argentinean volunteers I met in Bolivia
- 1 coffee tumbler — a gift from my mother
- 1 kitty notebook — a gift from a family member (thanks, Luvy!)
There you go, my packing list for the 2+ years I will be on the road. I admit this is not traveling light, and I know I will get rid of some of the things here, but so far, I haven’t regretted bringing any of the items listed here.
I hope my packing list has given you ideas on what to bring on your long-term trip!
Disclosure: These are affiliate links. If you buy through any of these links, I will receive a few cents in commission, which will help keep me on the road longer.
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Microfiber towels for the win!
Thanks for sharing your list!
I also dress by layers when traveling in cold weather, and recently discovered these jackets that are so light and can be compressed and do not take any space. I also carry an ebook reader like you, love reading! Electronics are heavy though but there is no choice but to take them. I didn’t have an iPad but had a cheap smartphone and bought a local SIM card in each country to have access to internet when there was no wifi.
I never heard of the power strip, adaptor and converter all in one, that would be very useful!
Thanks for sharing this packing list. I admire your ability to pack so light! I’m not a backpacker, and not sure I could be, because I like to bring at least a weeks worth of changes of clothes. To me trying to do laundry on the road is something to be minimized as much as possible! You do manage to bring quite a few electronics, which I sympathize with as I bring a lot with me too. I would love to know more about your camera and why you chose it. I hope you’ll do a post about that in the future.
Electronics are back breaking for sure! Props on carrying the dslr, I dare not take mine and brought a micro four third instead. Somedays I look back and can’t believe I got through south America with a 40l pack+ messenger bag. I meant to add, my must have for long term travel are: silk lining and tiger balm. Saved me dozens of times!
Hmmm… Tiger Balm. That’s interesting. Did you get to use it? I have a 40L backpack too, but with all the things I’ve bought (souvenirs mostly), it’s definitely not enough.
The longest time I’m gone is probably a month and still when I go to tropical countries I come back with my camera messed up from the humidity. Do you encounter this problem?
Also when my husband brings a swiss army knife that of course he puts in his back pack and goes thru the airport xray machine, 100% of the time it gets confiscated. You don’t get yours confiscated? We even got a free cork screw from a place we went to and also got confiscated on the way back home.
No, I don’t have that humidity problem. Good thing too, I have enough problems with my camera as is. LOL Re knife, I always put it in my checked luggage. I don’t want it to be confiscated!