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The Basics of Packing for an Around the World Trip
If you’ve been on a five day vacation, you’ve probably just taken five days worth of clothes. On a ten day trip it becomes a bit harder but is still totally doable… you could take a giant suitcase or just have a few key pieces dry cleaned at the hotel. But how does one pack for long-term travel for a year around the world trip?
To get the obvious out of the way, you are going to do laundry on the road… often. For housing, Lauren and I are mainly staying in a mix of hotels and AirBnB rentals, so we’ll probably stick to doing laundry in the rentals with AirBnB (frequently the owner’s condo or home has a washer), finding a local laundromat (easy), or just having a local service do it (very cheap in many parts of the world). And when we just need to do a few items we’ll wash them in the sink or tub of the hotel with these cool little Woolite packets that we are taking.
We really won’t have a full winter to deal with since we’ll be in the Middle East, Africa, and India for much of November to February, so that makes things a little easier. For the warmer locations, my bag will be a little heavier than Lauren’s since women’s summer clothes take up less space and I’ll have more long sleeves since any mosquito within a thousand miles will find me. For the cooler stops it will probably flip since Lauren will have more sweaters and warm items (she’s always cold). I’m sure Lauren will have a lot of packing and planning information on this topic on www.RedheadRoamer.com, so for now I’m just going over my strategy.
Christopher’s packing strategy for a year long around the world trip:
Let’s break this into two sections – 1) my clothes and boring stuff and 2) the cool tech and other year-on-the-road gear.
My Clothes and Boring Stuff
Some thoughts on my packing strategy:
* I wanted to have at least a week’s supply of socks, underwear, and casual shirts to do laundry less often;
* I wanted that stuff to be quick-dry so that I can wash it in the room if needed and just hang it up;
* I don’t want to have to switch it out for the cooler climates, but rather will just layer up by adding a pullover and fleece;
* It needs to fit easily into my bag so that I still have plenty of space at the top for any random additions on the road;
* It needs to be in a backpack and not a suitcase.
And the result looks like this:
A: 1 Kelty Coyote 4750 Backpack. It’s kinda big at 78 liters (and they don’t make it anymore), but I’ve had it since my first trip to France/Italy in 2006 and love it… so keeping it until it falls apart. Has lots of random pockets (important), and a front-load section so you don’t have to pack it from the top (very important).
B: 1 Rolo Travel Bag. This holds my boxers, socks, and t-shirts. Rolls up into very compact space and hangs on the door so really easy to grab the things you need every day.
C: 2 Eagle Creek packing cubes. I put my shorts and pants in one and my polos and button downs in the other. They are great to compress several items to save space.
D: Merrell waterproof boots. I had a pair of these that I beat up, loved, and eventually walked holes into over 8 years in Chicago (and on other trips), so I ordered a new pair for this trip. I’ll wear these on travel days and pack my lighter sneakers. Oh, and they are black so they will double for my “dress shoes.” If Boris won’t let me into the club in Moscow with these, I probably shouldn’t be there anyway…
Boris the Bouncer: “Sir, you are not on the list.”
Christopher: “Please check again. The last name is Putin, P-U-T-I-N…”
E: Brooks sneakers. Best pair of running shoes I’ve ever owned. So comfortable. Will wear these around most casual exploring days and, if necessary, running from tigers in India.
F: A very random pair of Abercrombie flip-flops that are so old I don’t have a link for them. I bought these in 2000 as a freshman in college and they have never failed. They have been everywhere with me… from the shower in a $6-per-night hostel in Shanghai to a not-$6-per-night-overwater-bungalow on our honeymoon in the Maldives. However, as they are from Abercrombie they probably still smell like naked-coed-waterfall-dance-party or whatever cologne they were spraying all over the store the day I bought them.
G: 9 Ex-Officio Boxers. These things are amazing. Like the ExO t-shirts and polos below, they dry very fast when hang-drying our laundry (which we’ll be doing almost exclusively).
H: 8 Socks: Mix of ankle/running and long socks + a mix of dark and light colors. A few are nice Smartwool socks for longer hikes/walks, but most are just old socks I’ve had that I’ll throw away as they get old and replace on the road.
I: 4 pairs of long pants as follows: 1 pair of normal/cheap Gap jeans. 1 pair of basic/cheap black dress pants that weigh next to nothing and don’t wrinkle when folded (I wasn’t going to take any dress pants but decided these wouldn’t add much weight and would be needed for the occasional nice dinner, business meetings, and so that Boris would be less likely to look at my shoes at the aforementioned Moscow club). 2 pair of ExOfficio Men’s BugsAway Ziwa Convertible Pants. So comfortable, very lightweight, and **watch out ladies** the legs unzip to turn into shorts. I know, right? As the saying goes… “comfort and not-getting-Malaria over fashion.”
J. 3 Ex-Officio polo shirts. Like the boxers and t-shirts, you wash and they dry super fast. Not really fancy. Basically a t-shirt with a collar, but looks a little nicer. The orangutans in the Sumatran jungles in Indonesia will appreciate the gesture of formality.
K. 5 Ex-Officio t-shirts. Same as above, but no collar. As noted above, the orangutans deserve better.
L. An awesome REI brand windbreaker that I bought for my first trip abroad in ’06. They don’t sell it anymore but several similar styles are available. It’s super warm and keeps you dry, and balls up into a tiny space so easy to carry.
M. One pair of swim trunks and one pair of absurdly-preppy-for-a-year-around-the-world-trip-red-white-and-blue shorts. Because you never know when you will be invited to play polo or have high tea with the Prime Minister of Micronesia! And don’t forget those two stylish ExO pants above also double as shorts.
N. 3 Long Sleeve Shirts. 1 Ex-Officio bugs-away long sleeve shirt and 2 simple/cheap Gap button downs that are kinda wrinkle-free and will do the job.
Note: Not included in my packing for the first two months is this North Face pullover and this North Face fleece. I won’t need them for the summer in Asia, but I’ll have them with me for the fall/winter for Eastern Europe & the Middle East when we’ll need to layer-up.
So. How does that all fit together? Funny you should ask.
How to pack for a year (in a minute and 30 seconds).
The only other item in my big clothes backpack is a small toiletries kit. Nothing fancy:
Toothbrush, toothpaste, shave cream, razor, deodorant, nail clippers, a travel shave mirror, hair gel, small soap/shampoo, and still has a little room.
It will be interesting to see what items we can most-easily replace on the road. For example on prior trips I noticed that they sell deodorant everywhere, but not anti-perspirant deodorant. And they sell toothpaste and shaving cream everywhere so we don’t need to carry Costco sizes with us.
My Tech & Other Gear
So here’s a typical conversation between Lauren and I about all of my amazingly awesome travel gear:
Lauren: “You and your gear…”
Christopher: [says nothing]
And here’s a conversation between future Lauren and I about all of my amazingly awesome travel gear:
Future Lauren after we are shipwrecked on a deserted island in the South Pacific: “I am so thankful for your gear! All of these amazing gadgets saved us”
Christopher: “I love you too.”
True Story. Or at least it will be. AND NOW ONTO THE GEAR!
Much of this stuff we already had (like the headlamp) and other stuff is new (like the clothesline):
A: Western Digital 2TB external hard drive and protective case.
B: Monster portable power strip. So that Lauren I can can run both our macs and charge phones, cameras etc. Because Hilton has a habit of covering all the plugs in the room with furniture. Except for that one strange one built into the lamp. Which makes total sense… anyway.
C: Plug adaptors. I’ve had these for 10 years so no link, but you can find others like this. They are NOT a power converter, just the plug-end-changer-thing. For example our iPhone and Macbook chargers automatically convert between 100 and 240 volts, so you don’t need a power converter, just these. But for a hair dryer or other tech you would need both a plug adapter AND a power converter.
D: Power converter for tech that doesn’t auto-convert. Unfortunately this thing is really heavy.
E: Awesome little flashlight/headlamp thing. For reading on a train. Or spelunking. Don’t judge.
F: Little tripod thing for camera and iPhone. Lauren thought this was dumb. I think my awesome non-shaky video of a cheetah taking down a gazelle in slo-mo that I sell to NatGeo for a cool million will prove her wrong.
G: Super sexy Pacsafe neck thing for travel days so I can keep my passport and cash handy without a fanny pack or under-the-shirt money belt. Because I would look like a dork with a fanny pack and clearly won’t wearing this thing.
H: North Face Router Transit backpack. Because my gear deserves this little workhorse. So many pockets and you don’t have to take your laptop out when going through security. Seriously it is the best backpack. Ever.
I: Macbook pro and power supply.
J: This little “nest” holder for my headphones b/c I used to break them all the time.
K: Cheap sunglasses that I bought for $10 at a random Walgreens in Nowhere, USA since I lose them all the time or sit on them. I think I bought these the last time I lost a pair or sat on them.
L: This leatherman multi-tool that will save our lives on the aforementioned shipwreck. Basically having this thing all but guarantees the other passengers will elect me interim-governor of our temporary island community until help arrives. Lauren also tagged this a dumb purchase. But when she needs a fish scale or a pair of needle-nose pliers… one of us will be proven right!
M: This iPhone charger (converts voltage automatically between 100v and 240v).
N: This little Nikkon camera. We bought it for a Key West snorkel trip a few years ago and were blown away by the quality (both above and below water).
O: One awesome small umbrella. This little guy was a staple of my Chicago daily commute. Never turns inside out. Chris: 1; Michigan Avenue freezing cross-breeze that tries to destroy your umbrella: 0.
P: Cheap dual-timezone watch. So that I can keep both local time and Eastern Time USA for market hours. And so we don’t accidentally call family at 2 am.
Q: My new Kindle Paperwhite. **Heavy sigh** So we are supposed to be an all-Apple family. I’m pretty sure I even squeezed that into our wedding vows to get Lauren on board. But I had an iPad 1st-Gen that weighed more than my macbook and was getting really slow. Also I tend to only read kindle books on it so it wasn’t getting used to it’s iMax potential. Because let’s be honest, those iPad commercials where some executive builds a multi-function sales revenue vs volume chart for a corporate presentation… no one does that. You read and use the internet on an iPad. And maybe take notes and use the calendar. That’s it. If you are the one person on earth who actually goes outside and holds up their iPad to track constellations, then please email me and I’ll post a correction. Wow this is a long paragraph. Anyway – so I got a kindle. Other companies-that-are-not-Apple: 1; All-Apple-Family-Policy: 0. **Another heavy sigh**
R: Little Moleskin pocket-sized notebook & pen. Because we won’t always have an internet connection and I’ll want to take notes and have airline/hotel confirmation numbers handy. These little books are awesome.
S: Cheap little RFID sleeves for credit cards. Probably didn’t need these but I’m a sucker for the Amazon “add on item” and they weigh nothing. I guess I’ll never know if they worked, but rather only if they don’t.
T: Those little Woolite packets I talked about above. But actually now that I think about it they are liquid not powder so they belong in the bag above in the clothes section so I don’t have issues carrying them on.
U: Cool little Vapur collapsible water bottle. I don’t know why the price on that amazon link ranges from $4 to $310. We paid less than $10 for it. Is there a 24 karat gold one I missed?
V: Little pull off velcro cable/cord ties. I use these things all the time to keep iPhone cables and other chargers neatly wrapped. They are cheap (100 for $5) and weight nothing. So that mess of cables you have behind your tv at home… yeah. Use these to fix that.
W: Extra memory cards and a flash drive (for printing things at hotels).
X: A “Y” adaptor headphone jack. So that I can make Lauren watch awesome movies on our flights. This thing will be mysteriously lost whenever she wants to watch girl movies. She made me watch Something Borrowed on our flight to Buenos Aires in 2011 and I needed an entire bottle of Malbec to get through it. Seriously. Horrible film. Just horrible.
Y: These cool little cord ties for when the velcro isn’t the best option or you constantly wrap and un-wrap (like my Macbook power cord). Side note: had I thought about it when I took the picture I would have made sure the “Y” adapter was bullet point “Y.” That would have been neat. Crap!
Z: This little clothes line for hang-drying stuff in the shower.
AA: My iPhone 5s.
Noticeably absent from this list is a selfie stick. Because I refuse to use one. I think when a future society looks back at the eventual downfall of our society, they will pin the start date of the collapse as the creation of the selfie stick. Or maybe even the creation of the word “selfie.” Or the start of the Kardashians. But I digress…
The only other thing that goes in our bags is a “medical kit” in my carryon backpack. We’ll address that in future posts, starting with the next one, because this thing is already causing problems…
That’s it! Thanks for reading,
Loved this article! I’ve been wondering what you were taking as well as how it would all come together!
Great list! I know we never got to catch up so waned to share a couple thoughts. Headlamp – awesome – ours were soooo handy! Hard drive – you might also want to backup to the cloud periodically – Josh knows more about this but you will find your hard drive and memory cards are your most valuable possessions on the road. On doing laundry – we washed socks and under wear all the time, super easy. Other essential item for this was a universal sink plug – a flat plastic sink stopper. You can probably find one on the road. Overall, great packing list – sounds like the essentials!
thanks, great comment! We could have used the sink plug on one of our stops where the sink kept draining on us!
I have never traveled overseas but I have done a couple 400 mile bike rides through the woods carrying only a Camelback backpack. Some of the things I found very useful would probably be of use to you as well. I like to carry a few contractor grade trash bags which have a variety of possible uses. The biggest use is for waterproofing your stuff inside your pack. On rainy days I put everything in the trash bag then stuff that inside the backpack and put my phone in a ziplock so it is accessible. Other trash bag uses, dirty laundry divider, poor mans poncho, sleeping bag cover, rainwater catcher, wind sail for rollerblading, etc. Next items maybe less useful on your urban trek but I like to have a water bladder ( I carry a small filter as well), a length of 550 para-cord, a few decent size zip ties, a bic lighter, a few ziplocks, and a wad of duct tape without the roll in the middle. I also wouldn’t go anywhere without my pocket knife. I carry a good size Kershaw speedsafe assisted opening knife which is at Walmart for 19$. Practice getting it out fast and without looking at it. It may be less of a headache to get one without assisted opening because the laws are a little funny even here, just make sure you can open it one handed with the little knob or ring on the back of the blade. Won’t travelling with two backpacks be a little awkward? Have fun and safe travels.
Thanks for the comments – good stuff. We actually like the two backpack thing. Even though the backpacks (on the back) are larger, they are only clothes so with our computers, cameras, and gear on the front they balance each other out.
I am really looking forward to reading about your adventures. Safe travels and God speed. Love you.
Uh…. Chris, I will NEVER be able to go around the world as we know how I pack. Love y’all and say a prayer every time you come to mind (which is often) for safety and FUN!!
I would love to see the suitcase – or suitcases – that you would take.