Tickets have been booked and your date of departure is creeping closer and closer. I remember doing dozens of frantic Google searches for ‘how to pack for a year long backpacking trip’ myself. The truth is, what you decide to put in your backpack is purely up to you. You can take as much, or as little as you want. That being said, I think we can all agree that the task itself is daunting! You don’t want to forget anything, but you also don’t want your bag to be too heavy, because let’s be honest, you are the only one who will be carrying it all year long. This is how to pack for a year on the road.
In this post I will take you through exactly what I (Hanna), brought on this trip, along with some helpful tips and things to consider while you begin packing for your adventure. This post is geared mostly towards women, however I do believe there are good tips for anyone to follow.
Think ‘capsule wardrobe.’ In a capsule wardrobe you have very few items that work interchangeably. One shirt can be worn tucked into a skit, with a pair of shorts, or even some jeans. Bring items that you can create multiple outfits with! This means you must keep your statement pieces to a minimum. Basic t-shirts, plain shorts, solid coloured skirts are all great options for you to take. Prior to leaving, I laid out all my outfits and tried to create at least 2-3 looks with each piece. If I couldn’t… I left it behind.
I will put this in all caps because it’s that important. ANYTHING YOU BRING, YOU MUST BE OKAY IF IT GETS LOST, STOLEN, OR DAMAGED. So… leave your new Gucci belt, forget that new leather jacket, don’t even think about taking the Chanel bag, literally bring NOTHING of value. Trust me this is hard, even for me! Especially when we are taking pictures 24/7, I want to show off all my best outfits, but the truth is, you can’t take any of that with you. Nothing I have in my backpack values more than $50 USD (apart from the technology). I can not tell you how many horror stories I have of clothes getting stained an entirely different colour in the wash, or how many times I have accidentally left a bikini behind at the hotel bathroom. Honestly, its just not worth the stress and worry so don’t bring it!
The general weather of where you will be going will likely play a large factor in the type of clothing you choose to bring. For example, if you are headed to Europe in the winter, you want to be sure that you have packed jackets and warm clothing. If you are doing a South East Asia trip, you want to take more shorts and bikinis, then jeans and sweaters. If you are doing a bit of both, and are planning on being in many different climate zones than bring a little bit of each.
I would also suggest you bring things that you can ship home, or throw out… (yes throw out) and then purchase new items on the road. For example let’s say you are going to South East Asia for the summer. You take all your bikinis, shorts and tank tops. Come October, you will be in Japan and China where the temperatures cool down a bit. Well, once there, ship those bikinis home, donate them, or toss them and buy yourself some jackets!
How To Pack For a Year
WHAT I PACKED
This is what is in my backpack for my first 9 months in Asia and South East Asia. Remember, what you pack is entirely up to you. You may not agree with the things I chose to bring, and that is okay! Also keep in mind that about 9 months into our world trip I do have the luxury of returning home where I plan on getting rid of things, and exchanging them for newer and warmer items for the rest of our trip. I will take you through what is in my main backpack, as well as my day pack, down below.
Day Backpack: North Face 25 liter backpack
George’s Main Backpack: Ospry Sojourn 80 Liter
Jeans: 2 pairs – one denim, one black
Skirts: 4 skirts – all different patterns good for photos
Shorts: 4 pairs – 2 jean shorts, 2 lounge shorts
Leggings: 2 pairs – one cropped, one long
Sweatpants: 1 pair
Dresses: 4 dresses all different colours and lengths
Work Out Clothes: 2 workout tops, 2 workout shorts, 2 sports bras
Tops: 5 t-shirts, 8 tank tops/every day tops, 6 nicer ‘going out tops’
Shoes: 5 pairs of shoes- 1 pair of vans, 1 pair of Nikes, 2 sandals, 1 flip flop
Hat: 1 baseball hat
Neck Pillow: 1 neck pillow for long bus rides and flights
Sweaters: 1 sweater
Socks: 6 pairs of socks
Underwear: 20 pairs (yes a lot, but they fold up small)
Swimsuits: 8 swim suits- bikinis and one pieces
Shampoo: 1 travel sized shampoo
Body Wash: 1 travel sized body wash
Conditioner: 1 travel sized conditioner
Lotion: 1 travel sized lotion
Makeup Removal Wipes: 1 packet
Dental Floss: 1 pack
Q-tips: 1 travel sized pack
Toothpaste: 1 travel sized tube
Toothbrush: 1 toothbrush, you can always get more
Razor: 1 pack of 3
Face Wash: 2 travel sized bottles (I buy 2 because I like my face wash from home and I know they don’t have it overseas)
Nail Clippers:1 pair
Toiletries are hard to pack because you almost forget that you can buy pretty much all of it overseas. I remember my first backpacking trip, I rushed to Target to buy every single travel sized thing they had in fear that I would not be able to find it in another country. The truth is, they have it… while it may not be the same brand they will have something similar. In my opinion I think you are better off packing a few items to start you off then just buy more once they run out.
HOW TO PACK FOR A YEAR
Medicine is also a tough one because it is very personal. Some people are required to take medication every day, while others do not. Since it varies person to person, I suggest you consult your doctor prior to leaving to see how and if you can get all the medication you need before you leave. Below I will tell you what we brought for our trip. Please keep in mind that neither of us have any medical conditions that requires us to take pills daily. Also for the majority of the over the counter drugs, such as Advil, or cold medicine you can buy these on the road! (this is what we have between the two of us).
Aspirin/Advil/Paracetamol: 4 packs (this is for the headaches and hangovers)
Tums/Anti Acids: 7 tablets (for upset tummy)
Travellers Diarrhoea Medicine: Both of us went to the doctor prior to leaving and got prescribed a special kind should we run into any problems with food/ water on our trip. We have about 15 tablets each.
Cough Drops: 15 in case we get a cough
Cold Medicine: 1 packet for day cold, 1 packet for night cold
Antibiotics: 1 course to knock out any bad infection
Inhaler: For my asthma and the poor air quality in some countries
Benadryl/Antihistamine: 2 packets. I have an allergy to various antibiotics so I always have these on hand just in case
Malaria Tablets: expensive, but necessary. We have these tablets to take for when we are in malaria affected areas
Mini First Aid Kit: 1 small first aid kit each – filled with band aids, Neosporin, alcohol wipes, burn wipes, gauze, and tape
Chapstick: 5 sticks- I am obsessed with chapstick and I packed as many as I could fit
we wanted to touch on this really quickly because it was something I faced prior to leaving. when I was taking the pill before I left and had been for years, however I decided that for me it was not practical to carry that many pills with me whilst traveling and I needed an alternative solution. I got the IUD. If you have more questions feel free to message me about it and I am happy to help!
I brought 2 pairs of sunglasses with me and was sent a third pair since being on the road. I also have a small bag of jewellery with cheap items I purchased from Forever21 prior to leaving. Inside I have a few necklaces, bracelets, and statement earrings. (Again, no pieces that I would be upset about losing, or damaging). I also brought one hair scarf.
I have one small makeup bag with me on the road. It carries a foundation, powder, small travel sized blush, highlighter, mascara, tweezers, chapstick, lipstick, and eyebrow pencil. I will say, I hardly ever wear makeup traveling, but it is nice to have on those special occasions.
1 hair brush each, and I did bring my straightener including a packet of hair ties.
4 colours- I took 4 different types of polish with me to paint my nails while I am away
How To Pack For A Year
Laptop: 1 Macbook Pro
Camera: 1 Nikon D3100
Phones: 2 Iphone 8 +’s
Ipad: 1 iPad
Gimbal: 1 DJI Osmos 2 Gimbal for filming video
Tripod: 1 Tripod
Power Bank: 1 Ankor power bank that can do up to 8 charges and charges the laptop
Hard-drive: 1 hard-drive to back up all our files
Phone Charger: 3 phone chargers
Laptop Charger: 2 laptop chargers
Headphones: 2 AirPods
Universal Power Adapter: 2 these things are life savers! I will link the ones we have. They allow you to plug into any type of plug socket around the world. A MUST for any traveller.
Money & Documents
We get a lot of questions about how much money and what documents we bring. If you would like to see a more detailed post about it click here
In short, we keep our money and important documents in a folder locked away in our bags. We also use money belts when traveling to hold items such as our credit cards, debit cards and ID’s. This is definitely an important addition on how to pack for a year.
I hope this extensive packing list can help you for your upcoming trip around the world. Even if you are only planning to backpack for a few months, this packing guide is a great start to help you begin your adventure. Ultimately, what you put in your bag is your daily reminder of a bit of home, and will be carried with you through your whole trip abroad! Now you’re ready and set on how to pack for a year.
Here are the links to our backpacks
Good Luck and safe travels!