I’m a minimalist when it comes to packing. I compulsively throw things away, so the contents of my backpack are constantly changing.
What is in your pack largely depends on where you plan to travel (considering climate conditions), and what you plan to do. Heavy camera gear may be a silly choice for the occasional photographer, but necessary for a professional to document their experiences. Do you need a bulky jacket and boots for snow, or a bathing suit and sun hat to survive the warm weather? Sometimes in long-term travel, you need both, and this is where it’s important to remember that you can mail superfluous items home. Luckily for me, visiting friends and family were able to take some of my extras back to California.
Don’t be afraid to underpack — if you realize you’ve forgotten something, chances are you can buy it wherever you are. How long you stay is mostly irrelevant, as you become an expert in washing your clothes in creative places.
Below is a list of what I had in my pack for a nine-month backpacking journey through Europe and Southeast Asia:
- Clothing: 1 bathing suit, 5 pairs underwear, 2 pairs socks, 1 sports bra, 2 tank tops, 4 short-sleeve shirts, 1 thermal shirt, 1 pair convertible pants, 1 pair yoga pants, 1 hiking skirt, 1 fleece, 1 rain jacket
- Shoes: 1 pair of TOMS shoes, 1 pair of hiking sandals
- Toiletries: shampoo, face wash, deodorant, razor, toothbrush/paste, floss, diva cup, sunscreen, moisturizer, chapstick, foundation, mascara, comb, extra toilet paper, band-aids, neosporin, vitamins, quick-dry towel
- Technology: laptop, flash drives, Kindle, iPod, headphones, camera, sd card, dinky phone, chargers, and cables
- Important documents: passport, list of immunizations, travel-related docs (like flight/hotel confirmations), itemized list of luggage contents, pictures of luggage (in case you lose them). It’s also smart to make copies of all these docs, carrying a physical copy and emailing an electronic version to yourself.
- Miscellaneous: bank/credit cards, small backpack, garbage/ziploc bags, sunglasses, duct tape, journal, water bottle, headlamp, dummy wallet, 2 small travel locks, small Swiss Army knife, wine opener, super monkey
This comes from my own itemized list of luggage contents, and my memory, so some things may be missing. Still, it’s a pretty good representation of what I carried on my back for nine months. I have plans for cycling and hiking trips in the future, so the list will change considerably. But it’s a good starting point for any future packing endeavors.