This packing list should cover just about anybody going anywhere in the world. Whether you’re just out seeing the world via your pre-prepared bank account or working while you live the vagabond life, you’re covered here.
First off I’ll cover what everyone should have in their pack. Well there’s something good to start with–a pack. If you don’t already have a backpack, you should check out this really informative video by Matt Kepnes about Picking The Right Travel Backpack. Once you’ve got that out of the way, let’s fill it!
No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing, these things should be with you:
- 2 – 3 Short sleeved shirts
- 1 Long sleeve shirt
- 1 Hooded sweater
- 2 Pairs of shorts- I carry Old Navy Swim to Street shorts which are very lightweight and quick drying, also negating the need to carry swim trunks
- 1 Pair of long pants- ALWAYS, I don’t care where you’re going.
- 6 Pairs of socks
- 6 Pairs of underwear—I usually wear women’s for better mobility—just kidding.
- Rain Poncho
- Flip Flops- Thongs for all you Aussie and Kiwi readers
- Comfortable Shoes- I usually don’t use hiking shoes, just personal preference
- Gym Shorts- For lounging in the hostel or to wear while doing laundry
- Travel Pillow
- Pocket Knife
- Headlamp- A flashlight mounted on a headband
- Small, Quick-Drying Travel Towel
- Small Flashlight- For use navigating dorm rooms at night without disturbing others
- Water Containers
Sometimes we don’t tend to care too much about this while traveling. However, I can tell you even while I was Living Under A Bridge in Italy for a while, I still tried to take care of myself with “hobo showers” which consisted of brushing my teeth, putting on deodorant and spraying/combing my hair. Believe it or not, little things like that made a difference. This particular part of the list is directed at men, since I would be lying if I claimed to have any idea what a useful shower kit for a female traveler would consist of.
If you’re a female looking for some direction in this part of the packing process, you should check out a great article written by fellow travel writer Cassie Kifer of Ever In Transit: Women’s Packing List for Carry On. She’s a minimalist when it comes to packing just like me, so I think her packing recommendations for clothing and toiletries will go hand in hand with this post.
- Toiletries Kit or “Shower Bag”- I use the The North Face travel canister. I love that little thing. It holds most of my larger hygiene items in the main compartment while also housing smaller pockets for tweezers and fingernail clippers for easier access. It also has a hook to hang it from wherever and a little mirror built into the hook!
- Toothbrush- I use a little foldable one, but there are countless travel toothbrushes on the market
- Toothpaste- If you’re going to be traveling any longer than a month, I’d go ahead and bring a regular-sized tube. The little travel ones are used up rather quickly and then you find yourself on a search for toothpaste in a foreign land. And let me tell you, sometimes the options are rather disappointing regarding taste.
- Shampoo- I bring a small, refillable bottle which I also use to wash my clothes in the shower.
- Fingernail Clippers
- Small bar of soap
- Small pair of scissors
- Contacts/Contact Solution
- Razor and Shave Gel- I don’t carry these, but if you’re a pussy and feel the need to trim off your man-powers then by all means, throw them in your purse—whoops—I mean backpack.
I photocopy and make backups of all of my important documents, which I then email to myself for safe-keeping.
- Passport- Duh.
- Immunization Papers
- Bank Statements- If they are a visa requirement for any countries you’re visiting
- Business Cards
- Money Belt
Now some of this will depend on what exactly you’re doing while you’re on the road. For example, I take a laptop because I do computer work while I’m traveling. If I didn’t, I’d probably just take a tablet with me. Use your best judgement here, as I can’t stress enough to pack light! I’m going to give you a list of all of the electronics I bring and you can pick and choose which ones might be best for your trip:
- 13″ Apple Macbook Air– I spent the extra money to get a MBA because I’ve had the displeasure of backpacking for months with a laptop that weighed upwards of 7 pounds. In backpacking terms, that’s like carrying around a damn Subaru in your pack. Plus the build quality is great and with no moving parts in the newest version, you don’t have to worry about durability too much. I keep it in a little zippered hard case as well as a snap cover.
- Sony NEX-6 Mirrorless Camera– I’m admittedly by no means a professional photographer, but it’s nice to have something with some real zoom capabilities and options for HD image processing. I’ve never carried one up until now (I relied on cell phone cameras before) but now that I’m taking blogging a little more serious I’ve opted to throw one into the mix. I picked this particular model over traditional DSLR cameras for two reasons: One, it weighs wayyy less and is much smaller, while still housing the same size sensor. Two, they are looking to be the future for professional photography. In other words, a lot of pros are making the switch to mirrorless, leading me to think that I’m not missing out on any quality difference between a traditional DSLR.
- GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition HD Videocamera
- Small Tripod (2)
- Lightweight Foldable Tripod (larger)
- Extra Mini-SD Cards with adapter for larger camera cards
- Adapter to use MicroSD Cards as a Thumb Drive
- Monster “Outlets to Go” Powerstrip– This little beauty is one of the best travel items I’ve ever discovered. It folds up to be pretty small, it’s lightweight and it’s just plain cool. If you’re heading to Europe, you may discover that there is a serious lack of power outlets, so this thing comes in extra handy. I take one everywhere though.
- International Power Outlet Adapter– You’ll need one of these in Europe, New Zealand and Australia; however I found that almost everywhere in Southeast Asia used regular old US standard outlets.
- Phone Charger(s)
Some other things I carry which I feel are worth elaborating on:
- Over The Counter Medications – Antacids, Ibuprofen, Allergy Meds, etc. This is invaluable, trust me. If you’re going somewhere like South America or Africa, you’re also going to want to look into malaria medication. A little bit of preparedness goes a long way against the mosquito-borne disease. Some people opt for long-sleeved clothing and a lot of bug spray in lieu of quinine tablets. The medication affects everyone differently, so you don’t know how you’ll react to it.
- Bandanna – So many uses for these things. Perfect if you have long hair like I do for managing your wildly unkempt hair during those days you inevitably go without a shower. Also used very frequently as a sleeping mask to block sunlight. Plus you look like a badass with a bandanna on. Except when you wear them around your neck. Opposite effect, actually. Don’t do that.
- I also bring a Sewing Kit – Don’t underestimate this. If you’re traveling long enough, something will tear.
- A Small First-Aid Kit – This is something everyone should have without a doubt. It’s nothing too crazy–although I do tend to get a little fancier if I know I’ll be doing a lot of camping and stuff like that. Bring some antibiotic cream, gauze, band-aids, hydrocortisone cream, and if you want some really great peace-of-mind, throw in a packet of Quik-Clot in case you happen to gash yourself open somehow. I use an Adventure Medical Kits waterproof kit.
- Eating Utensil
- P-38 Can Opener
- Small Day Pack- I keep all of my electronics in a small day pack inside of my larger pack. This not only makes it easy for me to grab all of my “work equipment” and walk down to the common area of a hostel to work, but also works great for treks around the area without having to carry my full pack.
- Small Notebook or Journal- I carry both a small journal as well as a composition notebook. The notebook I use for work notes, and the small journal I keep in my pocket wherever I go. I find that writing in a journal is one of the best ways to combat homesickness as well as catalog your journey. Whenever I’m sitting on a bus, or relaxing in the evening with nothing to do, I’ll pull out the journal and do some writing. Either little snippets of what I’m thinking, favorite travel quotes, or just writing down some interesting events of the day. Plus it’s really fun to go back and read it later once your back home and missing the travel life!
This should cover everything you need to get out and experience the world! I try to be a minimalist when it comes to packing for travel. It’s taken me the better part of five years to get to that point, though. I was once incredibly guilty of always over packing. One of the best and truest pieces of travel advice I’ve ever read comes from Susan Heller, who said—
“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then half the clothes and twice the money.”
Have I left anything out? Or do you have suggestions or comments for this list? Do you have your own world travel packing list? Leave them in the comments below!