What to Pack for A Long-Term or RTW Trip (Male Edition)

Thu, Mar 24, 2011 |

Travel Tips


From experience, packing for a 1-year trip was the hardest aspect of preparing for it. Now, having traveled and lived out of my backpack for well over a year, it’s a piece of cake. This post will provide some general advice on packing, as well as the exact items with pictures I would pack if I were leaving for a long-term or RTW (round-the-world) trip today.

Update: Make sure to also check out our female edition of what to pack for long-term or RTW trip.

First, some overall advice:

  • Figure out approximately how often you want to do laundry. My recommendation is every 5 days. (If you start out with 5 days of clothes, as you travel this number will steadily increase – not because you buy more clothes but because you’ll wash things in the sink and your smell test will become easier to pass.)
  • You’re not traveling to the moon; don’t pack for every imaginable situation. If you need something you can almost always find what you’re looking for or something close to it at your destination.
  • You can send things home too. If you end up packing too much, not a big deal. Sending packages home is reasonably priced.
  • If it gets cold, you can buy a jacket. If it’s hot you can buy extra T-shirts.
  • Think versatility. Almost everything in your pack should serve more than 1 purpose. You’ll see what I mean below.

The Backpacks

  1. Main Pack – I’m not a pack expert. There are a lot of articles that can help you choose a pack. My main piece of advice is to find a good quality pack (you’ll use it for a long time) with two ways to get into the main compartment.
  2. Daypack – I started out with a nice North Face daypack, which was great during the day. However, when I had both packs on, I was miserable. I hated having my day-pack in front and my main pack in the back. I ended up ditching it (sent it home) and went with a small, thin, foldable day-pack. One of the best decisions I made. Unfortunately, I’m still not sure what these are called or where to find them. I purchased this particular one in South Korea.

Clothes

  1. (1) Short sleeve gym shirt (Also used as PJ’s when clean)
  2. (1) Long-sleeve gym shirt (Also used as PJ’s when clean & a base layer when cold)
  3. (1) Pair of gym shorts
  4. (1) Wind-breaker type jacket
  5. (1) Pair of jeans
  6. (1) Belt
  7. (1) Pair of zip-off cargo pants/shorts (Also used as PJ’s when clean)
  8. (1) Pair of shorts
  9. (1) Pair of board shorts (Also used as underwear when necessary)
  10. (4) T-shirts (You can easily add more, as t-shirts do not take up a lot of room)
  11. (1) Long sleeve collared shirt
  12. (1) Long sleeve shirt
  13. (5) Pairs of underwear (the athletic and quick-dry types are easy to wash in the bathroom)
  14. (5) Pairs of socks

When we entered cold weather I purchased:

  1. (1) Beanie
  2. (2) Pairs of gloves
  3. (1) Hoodie
  4. (1) Pair of leg warmers
  • And I layered! Depending on how cold it was, I would literally wear almost all of my clothes at the same time.

Shoes

  1. (1) Pair of Sandals (used as shower sandals as well)
  2. (1) Pair of athletic Shoes (used for walking, running, hiking & going out)

Electronics

  1. (1) Backup Hard Drive (I recommend online backup as well)
  2. (1) Steripen with 4 rechargeable AA batteries (Pretty small to bring around, saves money and great for the environment)
  3. (1) Olympus Digital Camera (Point & shoot, nothing special, but does the job)
  4. (1) Amazon Kindle (This is a new purchase. It’s surprisingly tiny.)
  5. (1) iPhone 3GS (Essentially becomes an iPod Touch when abroad)
  6. (1) Asus Eee 1005HA Netbook (Small and awesome, love it!)

Storage Things

The reason choosing my pack was not a big deal is that everything goes in a bag before it goes in my main pack. The space bags are great because they vacuum out the air and are easy to pack and unpack.

  1. (1) Large Space Bag to go (For clothes)
  2. (2) Medium Space Bag to go (For clothes)
  3. (1) Large Ziploc bag for Papers, Notebook, etc.
  4. (1) Small bag to store sandals
  5. (1) Small Eagle Creek Storage Bag (Camera charger, Pedometer, Battery Charger)
  6. (3) Eagle Creek Stuffer Bags (Black – Laundry, Blue – Extra/Miscellaneous, Red – Locks)

Toiletries

  1. (1) Bar of soap with Ziploc carry bag
  2. (1) Bottle of shampoo
  3. (1) Razor cord
  4. (1) Deodorant
  5. (1) Inhaler (I have asthma)
  6. (1) Drain stopper (Useful for washing your clothes in a sink.)
  7. (1) Saline Nasal Spray (All of the climate and altitude can really dry out your nose.)
  8. (1) REI First Aid Kit (Nice to have, but barely makes the cut into the bag.)
  9. (1) Razor
  10. (1) Tiger Balm (Great for lots of things — mainly mosquito bites)
  11. (1) Pepto-Bismol
  12. (1) Traveler’s diarrhea medicine
  13. (1) Toiletry bag with usual stuff – Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, etc.
  14. (1) Sunscreen
  15. (3) Extra Ziploc bags
  16. (1) Large fast dry shower towel

Papers

  1. (1) Notebook (General note-taking, but mostly for work.)
  2. (1) Copy of immunizations (I’ve never had to use this.)
  3. (1) Copy of Passport
  4. (1) Copy of birth certificate (I’ve never had to use this either.)
  5. (1) Passport
  6. (5) Passport photos
  7. (100) Business cards
  8. (1) PADI Diver’s Logbook & PADI Dive Card (if you’re a scuba diver, of course)

Other

  1. (1) Blow up neck pillow (also used to wrap my netbook for safe traveling)
  2. (1) Eyemask with earplugs
  3. (1) Laptop lock (I’m cautious and always lock it up when I leave it in my room)
  4. (1) General lock with cord (If you have a locker or something similar)
  5. (1) Headlamp (I love my headlamp. It comes in handy for many situations, especially in a hostel dorm early in the morning or late at night)
  6. (1) Pedometer (I like seeing how many steps I walk in a day)
  7. (1) Gorillapod (This is an adjustable tripod for your camera. They’re great. Get a knock-off though, they’re far less expensive)
  8. (1) Swiss Army Knife (Primarily used to cut bread and spread peanut butter)
  9. (1) All-in-one power plug adapter (This doesn’t change voltage, it only the adapts the plug, which is all you generally need.)
  10. (1) Laptop power cord
  11. (1) Pair of super sweet sunglasses
  12. (1) Small notebook and pen (Always in my pocket and very helpful)
  13. (1) iPhone arm band for working out
  14. (1) Rechargeable battery charger (For Steripen batteries)
  15. (1) Camera battery charger
  16. (1) Small bag of sewing materials (This has come in handy many more times than I expected)
  17. (1) Bag of cords – Kindle cord, camera cord, headphones with microphone (for Skype), regular headphones, iPod cord, backup hard drive cord, small wipe to clean iPhone.

That’s it! Wow, to be honest, I had no idea there were so many things!

Did I miss anything you would never consider leaving home without? Leave a comment and let me know!

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This post was written by:

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Jason is the co-founder of Unanchor.com.

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  • http://www.forouzani.com Moe

    “your smell test will become easier to pass”

    so true!

    • http://twitter.com/Unanchor Jason Demant

      Haha!

  • JoeDudas

    Great post, Jason. Nice to have a backpacker-veteran weigh in on this so thoroughly.

    • http://twitter.com/Unanchor Jason Demant

      Thanks Joe, as an experienced traveler yourself, I appreciate the compliment.

  • Danny

    Is there a female edition coming soon?

    • http://twitter.com/Unanchor Jason Demant

      Hi Danny,

      Yes, I’ll try to convince my significant other (seen in the picture at the top) to do a similar post. I’ll make sure to tell her of all of the requests :-).

      Jason

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      It took a little longer than expected, but we posted a “what to pack for a rtw female edition” today, you can check it out here: http://blog.unanchor.com/2011/04/what-to-pack-for-a-long-term-or-rtw-trip-female-edition/

  • Asisearth

    This is incredible information!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I, too, am wondering if we can have a female edition with this. This post rocks!!!!

    • http://twitter.com/Unanchor Jason Demant

      I have a traveling significant other who could put a great list together. I’ll definitely try to convince her to put her list together.

      • Asisearth

        Jason, approximately how much did your bag weigh? Also, thanks for providing links to some of the gear, this is so incredibly helpful!

        • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

          I’m glad this was helpful for you. If you’re wondering about weight when checking your bag, mine usually weighed around 25 pounds — because I took my netbook and a couple other things with me as a carry-on. On my back total, I think adding another 10 pounds to that, so 35 pounds with everything is my estimate.

  • http://www.alexberger.net AlexBerger

    Great list! Well done.

    • http://twitter.com/Unanchor Jason Demant

      Thanks Alex!

  • Ben

    Hey Jason, great post! Been backpacking for over 4 years now and the only addition I can think of off the top of my head is a dry bag that I put some clothes and electronics into. This has come in handy when stuck walking 6 hours in a downpour, knowing your electronics are safe, and having at least one set of dry clothes when you finally find a dry spot. I use an air-tight roll-top camping bag from Mountain Equipment Co-op that is just awesome!

    Cheers and again, good job.

    • http://twitter.com/Unanchor Jason Demant

      Hey Ben, Thanks! Yeah, a dry bag is a good call. The Space Bag’s I use are apparently waterproof (although I’ve never tested this), but for your electronics that would be a great addition.

  • http://profiles.google.com/brittfrey Britt Frey

    Nice list, Jason. For shirts, I recommend 3 or 4 moisture-wicking tees and a 1 or 2 sets of cold-weather compression clothes (long-sleeve top and pants). Those will wash well, dry quickly, pack down very tightly, and cover you for warm weather and a fair amount of cold weather. With just a compression shirt and a tee in layers, I can handle about 8 C; below that, you’ll need more layers, like a hoodie or actual coat.

    The convertible cargo pants are a must!

  • Jennie

    Really great post Jason! Very well laid out, and I really appreciate the numbering system.

    • http://twitter.com/Unanchor Jason Demant

      Thanks Jennie! Of course you like the numbering system! :-)

  • http://almostbohemian.com David William

    jason! this is a great post! i am doing a long trip at the end of the year and i’ll have a similar post. i look forward to it. this was inspiring. thanks for the good read!

    • http://twitter.com/Unanchor Jason Demant

      Hi David,

      Congrats on the upcoming trip! I’d love to see your list when you put it together, it’s always fun reading about other people’s travel gear.

  • Fred Perrotta

    Great post, Jason. I’ll reference your list when packing for my next trip.

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      Thanks Fred!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=7813524 Chris Bott

    This is extremely helpful. I applaud you!

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      Thanks!

  • Snarkycamper

    I’ve lived out of a backpack for about five years, and this piece literally made me laugh out loud. I guess I now know how a victim of advertising would do what I do.

    Ditch the shampoo, get a bar of proper castille soap like Dr. Bronner’s (the bars are tricky to find, but around) and use it for everything (shampoo, shaving, whatever). But really, soap is everywhere – I’ve never had a need to pack it. Deodorant is quite literally for suckers, but it’s a prevalent enough delusion that it’s understandable. An electric razor (with an additional cord to carry, no less!) – now that one REALLY got me laughing. And how much does that metal sunscreen bottle weigh? For god’s sake, just get burned once and let it tan.

    I personally found your wardrobe hilariously overstocked, but this probably falls under “different strokes for different folks.” Compared to your hoard, the measly 5 pairs of socks I don’t understand – I’ll take pretty much as many socks as I can carry, up to a dozen pairs, and generally burn through them all in a couple months. I generally keep just one change of shirt (total of two, both tees) and a pair of fleece pajama pants as a second bottom layer, used mostly for cold weather. But yes, my shirt and pants get dirty. I’ve found that people who don’t mind that are typically a lot more fun to hang out with. Then I’ve got a sweater-ish under layer for the top (can double as another shirt) and a hoodie. And during winter months, a SINGLE pair of gloves (I mean really, TWO pairs of gloves?)

    As for the electronics, well, yuppie is as yuppie does. But I tried traveling with a laptop for a few months, and found it to be one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had. I’d much rather be able to sit on my pack, or toss it out of a truck, or stash it in a bush without freaking out. And honestly, the steripen? Come on – a jar of iodine tablets is like 50x less bulk and weight (not to mention more effective) – suck it up and savor the flavor, not that I’ve ever even had to use my little jar. I simply always make sure to have a metal container that I can boil in – and it doubles as something to eat and drink out of, not to mention getting the refill price on coffee. But then, I suppose you’d probably carry a camp stove if you went that route… I like wood fires.

    The blow-up neck pillow almost brought me to tears. I can understand that some people may have cervical spine issues that necessitate incredibly specific pillow strategies, but me personally – and dozens of friends of mine – do just fine rolling up a sweater or some clothing, like sane people. And I’m not sure what’s in your bag of sewing materials, but I just keep a pack of hand needles and a roll of dental floss on hand (don’t use “ribbon” style floss – it shreds). The floss outperforms pretty much any thread it’s possible to buy. And don’t get me started on the freakin’ TRIPOD. I mean honestly? Are you shooting for National Geographic, here? Find a table, or stack some rocks. Now, when you started a line with “bag of cords,” I thought, “oh thank god, at least he’s got the sense to carry a good supply of rope” – but no, just more stuff the TV told you you needed. And a Swiss Army Knife is okay (at best), but particularly if it’s mostly for food, you’re a lot better off with a fixed blade (sheath) knife that won’t get all gunked up, and is much more valuable for almost any other knife tasks. Finally, that “general lock with cord” can be circumvented in under ten minutes by any motivated thief – it’s gotta weigh almost a pound, no? If you didn’t have so much ridiculous crap, maybe you wouldn’t need to worry so much about security…

    I can appreciate that you probably stay in hostels or couchsurf, or whatever the heck you people do, but I personally like to have a sleeping bag, a compact blanket (either fleece or wool), and a plastic tarp. I can only assume that you simply excluded that stuff, but do in fact have those sorts of things (good god, walking anywhere with your pack must be like the tale of Sisyphus).

    But yeah, the headlamp is a good move. Nailed that one, at least.

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      Hey, Thanks for taking the time to write up your advice! It’s always cool to contrast between different types of travelers. In fact, it probably would have been good to give a quick background on the type of traveler I am. You nailed it though, I typically stay in hostels/guesthouses/inexpensive hotels. I’d be down for camping and roughing it, but I’ve always traveled with my girlfriend (now wife) — who wouldn’t be so keen on it.

      Sunscreen — no dice on getting burned. I’ve had family problems with skin cancer, not running the risk and don’t recommend anyone else to either.

      Electronics — It’d be nice to travel without the laptop and not have to worry about it, but I’m always trying to balance working and traveling.

      Tripod — The tripod’s awesome, you can wrap it around trees and stuff, it’s cool.

      Thanks again,
      Jason

    • Jennie

      Dear Snarkycamper,

      I embrace different points of view, and I applaud you for for being a long-term traveler. However, perhaps you have been on the road too long, because it appears your manners have gone out the window. It also sounds like you have adopted an elitist attitude towards travelers who choose not to sew their clothes with dental floss, or sleep on the floor. Your attitude saddens me, because I thought the ex-pat community welcomes travelers of all types.

      It is also strange that you do not approve of the use of sunscreen. It seems irresponsible to recommend that you should let yourself burn, especially with all of the information out there that shows how badly the skin gets damaged from sun exposure.

      You have much more travel experience than I will ever have in my lifetime, so I definitely envy you. I’m sure that you live in a way that makes you very happy, but I just don’t see the reason for judging the choices other travelers make.

  • http://twitter.com/ShenVenture Adrienne & Jerry

    Thanks for sharing your list. I just posted my own RTW packing list and it’s always nice to see what others have packed. I feel that we’re bringing a ridiculous amount of electronic gear, but the hubby needs to work while traveling. We leave on April 3rd…I’m excited!

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      Np and congratulations! Good luck on your trip!

  • http://spacesaverscommunity.com Space Savers Correspondent

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for sharing such a thorough packing list for travelers. Just wanted to say we’re happy Space Bag is able to help you bring everything you need. Space Bag has an online community dedicated to helping people save space both at home and on the go. We would love to link to your packing list from the blog at http://www.SpaceSaversCommunity.com. Thanks again for sharing your tips. Happy travels!

    Best wishes,
    Space Savers community correspondent

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      Np, I’m a big fan of the product. And sure, happy to have you link here.

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  • http://lastcarriage.com/ Paul

    Great article.

    When it comes to clothing, I’d only go for lightweight, quick-drying clothes; t-shirts might be small, but the cotton ones weigh a lot when you have a few of them. Pure woollen t-shirts such as Icebreaker are great; they’re light, they dry incredibly quickly, and if you find yourself without the time to wash, you can wear them again as they don’t collect odours.

    As for jeans … I’d never take any with me again. They’re just too bulky and heavy. I just spent a year wandering around the world without them, and I certainly didn’t miss them.

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      Thanks Paul! Thanks also for the tips on the t-shirts, I’ll definitely check that out.

      And I agree on not needing jeans. Because they were so bulky and heavy, every time I traveled I had to wear them. When it was 100 degrees outside and I was headed to a new city they were on, it would have been nice not to have to do this.

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  • Sofia – As We Travel

    I love the way you laid it out with the number and all. A lot of things to pack though, seems like a really heavy backpack..!

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      @5f7a23714b1112d191df8b3397172b48:disqus – Thanks! It seems like a lot of things to me too, but as long as I had my jeans and shoes on, my pack wasn’t that heavy to be honest.

  • http://nomadicsamuel.com Nomadic Samuel

    This is such an excellent post – the photos with numbers depicting the items really adds to what you are saying.  Is there anything you’ve found you don’t pack these days that you did on an earlier trip?

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      Hey — thanks for the compliments, I’m glad you found the post helpful! And yes, there are a number of things — far less clothes for one. I also wrote up a blog post on packing mistakes to try and avoid (basically, I made all of these mistakes) – http://blog.unanchor.com/2011/04/top-7-packing-mistakes-to-avoid-for-your-rtw-long-term-trip/

  • http://twitter.com/adventureswben Ben Reed

    Great list!

  • weltschmerz

    Thanks for the great list! One item I would add is a clothesline. Just a length rope or twine works and could most certainly come in handy in a variety of non-clothesline situations.

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      Thanks! Yeah, good call on the clothesline. I typically travel with one just because it’s so small and easy to pack. However, I’ve found that I didn’t use it all that often and just hang things in the bathroom instead. But still, good to have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/savagetraveler Savage Traveler

    I saw the steri pen on your list there. I packed one and also a water pump just to see which I would use more and I ended up using the pump more frequently just because of the sheer amount of pollution in the Mae Kong. I would recommend it over the steri pen. Its a little bigger but man it saved me when I was hung over in a village in the middle of nowhere. Great Post

    • http://www.Unanchor.com Jason Demant

      Thanks for the comment and compliment, I appreciate it. I’d be interested to see the water pump you used, can you provide a link?

  • http://www.srilankan.com/en-US/Home/flights-male-maldives Flights to the Maldives

    Hey Jason, These items would be really necessary for backpacking. Can you tell me the purpose of carrying sewing items? 

  • http://www.1movers.com/ Destin @ Maryland Moving Compa

    This is a good checklist, I should tell about this to my husband because he is travelling always for business works.

  • http://rt-now.com/ RT

    good stuff

  • http://www.srilankan.com/en-US/Home/flights-bangkok Flights from London to Bangkok

    I think this checklist will be very effective for me because whenever I’m travelling for business purposes I use struggle to do my packing’s. But this is an easy technique to pack it properly.

  • http://www.srilankan.com/en-US/Home/flights-colombo-sri-lanka Direct flight to Sri Lanka

     I have just read this article. As a traveler, this article has really useful information for me.

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  • wally

    I’m really sorry but this is so far off it’s almost criminal. I’ve been traveling for 12 of the last 15 years and this article is completely wrong. Tale about 1/3 of what is suggested and enjoy your travels.

  • Soup

    That’s a lot of stuff. Must be one heavy backpack. I pack 1/3 of that in my travels and save my back.