Minimalist Packing Tips For Long Term Travel
So you’ve made the decision, you’re heading off on a big adventure to see the world. Your savings are coming along nicely and you’ve got your travel itinerary mapped out. Now to decide what you need to take with you. I’m going to admit, we were pretty clueless about what to pack for long term travel when we set off on our first backpacking trip.
We agonised over everything, from reading many articles like this post on the best travel backpacks to how many pairs of socks to take. And we definitely overpacked. We had a huge list of anything and everything we might potentially need. But not only did we end up lugging stuff around that we just didn’t use, we also shelled out unnecessary money buying it in the first place.
Money that would have far better been spent on, well, actually travelling. We’ve been living out of our backpacks for 2 years now, give or take a few months spent back at home in the UK. So we like think we know a thing or two about how to pack for long term travel now and we’d love to share our best packing tips with you.
The Right Backpack
There are so many different backpacks on the market these days that come in lots of different sizes with varying functionalities. Much about your choice of backpack will just be down to personal preference, however, what I will say here is big is not best. There are two reasons for this – firstly if you have space, trust me, you will fill it, and secondly, you have to carry it.
We used to travel with 65L and 55L backpacks but these days we both have just 44L ones that can also be taken on planes as hand luggage which is pretty handy. When we had bigger bags we found we just had a bunch of things stuffed in the bottom that we didn’t even get out for months on end, let alone use.
By this, I’m not meaning those styleless zip off trousers/shorts. Although I do kind of see the practicality, they’re just not my cup of tea. I’m just talking about items that can be used for different purposes. For example, I carry more bikinis than bras because I use bikini tops as bras most days and most of James’ shorts can be worn for both normal use and swimming.
I also swear by having a sarong at your disposal. I use mine as a dress, a towel and a scarf. Although I know many people are, we’re not a fan of hiking boots, simply because we don’t think the opportunity to wear/usefulness ratio works out. Instead, we have trail running trainers that we use for exercise, long distance hikes and day to day wear.
Before we invested in these we were so sceptical, thinking they would be just another thing to have in your bag, but they are the ultimate space savers. We have 3 each and swear by them for long term travel packing. One for our clothes, one for underwear/socks and one for dirty stuff. And you don’t have to spend a fortune on them, ours were only a few quid.
They make packing for long term travel so much easier because you do it the same way each time rather than just randomly cramming everything in. And you can actually take stuff out of your backpack without having it lying around everywhere. Plus if you buy more clothes on the road and they don’t fit into your packing cube, you know you have too many.
The packing cubes with a see-through mesh front will give you an idea of what’s inside, and a single glance will allow you to know what event you’ll wear it for. This can be especially useful for destination weddings and other out-of-town events you need to attend.
Sharing is Caring
This only works if you are travelling as a couple or with a mate, but we always share all of our toiletries. Two toothpastes, two suncreams, two mosquito repellants, two shampoos etc add up. And you’re not going to be carrying the equivalent of each to last your whole trip (well I hope not anyway, I’ll get to that) so there’s really no point to having more than one of each.
We also share quite a few bits of our electrical equipment. For example a speaker, multiway adapter, battery pack, external hard drive and camera. So if you’re setting off travelling with someone else, our advice is once you’ve got your final packing list, compare it and see what you can share.
You Can Buy Things
The day before we left the UK to travel, I remember nearly having a breakdown because I had forgotten to buy some nail varnish remover and was convinced that they wouldn’t sell it in our first stop of Argentina. It was pretty ridiculous and of course they did sell it in Argentina, and in fact in every single one of the 13 countries we’ve visited since.
But more than forgetting things you know you will need and stressing about it, don’t pack ‘just in case’ stuff. We had boxes and boxes of medication when we set off, a crazy amount of batteries and a portable washing line that we never used, to name just a few things. Seriously, if you really need things, you can buy them. They have shops all over the world.
Even now with my minimalist backpack belongings I still look for opportunities to pare stuff down and I would encourage you to do the same. Every couple of months I look through my clothes and if I haven’t worn them for good reason (i.e. not if it’s my fleece and we’ve been living in a tropical climate) I get rid of them, usually by giving them away.
Literally everything that we have in our bags now has a day to day purpose and are things that we constantly use. I used to have two identical pairs of flip flops, just in case one broke. Neither did for 8 months. Okay it’s a pair of flip flops but everything adds up, so try to be really critical about stuff that you actually need versus what you want, there’s a big difference.
And there you have it, our best packing tips for long term travel. So get your backpack packed and get on that plane – the world is waiting for you!
If you have any questions about packing for long term travel or want advice on specific items you should or shouldn’t take, drop us a comment, we’d love to help.
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About the Author
James & Sarah of TheWholeWorldOrNothing are full time backpackers and part time thrill seekers. It all started with a conversation about wanting more from life and a desire to travel the world. Now they are living their dream and hope to inspire you to put your fears aside and go follow yours. Follow them on social media to keep up with their journey and awesome travel tips – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest & Youtube.