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Long-term Travel Packing List – Choose What to Bring

My packing list has been a labor of love since we started planning this trip. While Kenny was booking Airbnbs in South America, I was watching backpack spec videos, reading through pages of Amazon reviews of hiking shoes, and scouring the web for for every travel packing list I could get my hands on.

I wrote a post for Mouse Hacking with tips on packing only a carry on. When packing for this trip, I applied all the same principals (including wearing the Mickey ears since my first stop was Walt Disney World!). In short, it really comes down to identifying the essentials and making them fit in your pack.

Determine What’s Essential
  1. Know the climate: Outline your trip so you know what regions you’ll be in during which months. Look up the average highs and lows to determine what types of clothes you’ll need.
  2. Plan for special activities: Identify your major activities that require special equipment. Figure out if you’ll need to bring it with you or if you can rent/buy it there. Things like hiking the Inca Trail, going on an African Safari, or scuba diving all may require special clothing, technology, or other equipment.
  3. Account for the everyday: Don’t under estimate how many of your days are spent doing regular, everyday things. Be sure you know what you use and wear normally, and be sure to bring those things. (I know this sounds obvious, but I brought running shoes, hiking shoes, and black flats for specific purposes and didn’t bring Chucks as my everyday shoe and immediately felt the gap.)
  4. Know what you can purchase abroad: Never pack for what-ifs. This is my rule no matter where I’m going, but it’s extra important when you’re packing for a year in a backpack. I might need an umbrella; I might ibuprofen; I might need sunblock. You won’t find these things on my packing list because if/when I need them, I can buy them abroad. It’s not worth the space to bring things you might need if they’re readily available across the globe. On the contrary, you will find DEET bug spray on my list, because I read that it is difficult to find in Cusco where I will need it for the Inca Trail.
How to make it fit
    1. KonMari folding: Kenny learned about this technique while reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and we swear by it. It’s absolutely the best way we’ve found to make our clothes take up the least amount of space. I’m actually pretty sure I do this wrong, but I try to get close.
    2. Packing cubes & zipper pouches: I need everything to have a space or I get frustrated. Packing cubes are the best way I’ve found to keep everything organized, and they also give a little bit of compression to help you fit more things in less space. I am currently using two of these eBags small packing cubes as well as the smallest cube from these Bagail multi-size packing cubes. I also picked up these adorable animal print canvas zipper pouches to keep small odds and ends and I’m pretty much obsessed with them.
    3. Find collapsible versions: This was my favorite thing about packing! I loved trying to find the smallest versions of things! We got collapsible water bottles, pillows, travel towels, raincoats and daypacks, and they all easily fit in a small packing cube with tons of room to spare.
    4. Choose lightweight materials: Light materials pack smaller and are also easier to wash and dry on the go. All of my fitness clothes are Nike DryFit which I love for running and for life. I also swear by the Madewell Whisper Cotton Ts. I currently own them in five colors and they’re the only t-shirts I brought with me on this trip. They’re so soft and comfortable and hardly take up any space.
    5. Wear your bulky items: This is just Packing 101 but I feel like I have to say it. If I didn’t wear my Patagonia Better Sweater, The North Face Apex Jacket, jeans and Columbia Hiking Shoes, everything on my packing list would absolutely not fit in my pack.
    6. And if all of that doesn’t work … don’t bring it.

When I practiced packing, I expected to be able to fit six packing cubes in my pack and had everything set out and assigned to a cube. Once the cubes were actually packed, I realized that I could only fit three. So at midnight the night before our departure, I was pulling things out of my bag and cutting things off my packing list until I got the darn thing to zip. And guess what? I haven’t even noticed anything missing.

Go back to the main packing list page