In a turn towards more mundane aspects of traveling, today’s post is all about packing effectively.
My most recent trip lasted for about three and a half months, and one of the most challenging tasks before I departed was packing for an extended continuous journey. Therefore, for the benefit of the Internet, I have cobbled together a loose guide to packing for an extended trip. This is just a base that should be altered to suit the preferences and needs of the individual traveler (e.g. please don’t follow it religiously)!
My only big rule is to take nothing with you that you are not prepared to leave behind. You’ve probably read this in other guides, but it’s a good rule. You don’t need nearly as much clothing as you think you do, and you want some extra space to work with.
That being said, your own list is really dependent on weather, the geographical area(s) where you are traveling, the length of your trip, and your own preferences.
I just came back from a trip to Europe and Turkey over autumn and winter, so here are a few good recommendations:
- Packable down or synthetic jacket. Down is warmer, but synthetic is much easier to wash on the road. An example here.
- Packable (or easy-folding) waterproof shell jacket –very easy to layer over other warm clothing. An example here.
- A Scarf. Just one is enough, so take along something that will serve multiple purposes. My personal favorite is a standard pashmina, because it folds up like a dream.
- Tuque (beanie). If you’re going somewhere really cold and just having a scarf will be not enough.
- Ankle-covering and warm socks.
- Sturdy and waterproof or water-resistant shoes or boots.
For regular clothing items, take just enough so that you can have something to wear while everything else is being washed (in many cases you may not have access to a dryer, so factor in the time you might wait for clothes to dry). Sweaters and pants can be worn many times before needing a wash. I usually take 2 pairs of pants, 3-4 shirts, about three pairs of socks, and about as many pairs of underwear as I can squeeze in. For ladies who are backpacking on a budget – sports bras all the way.
It’s good to keep in mind that if you are looking for something specific that you can’t find before you leave (a decent winter coat in California, for example), it is common to find adequate clothing or other supplies in major cities where you are traveling.
Layering is key for colder climates. Something good to remember if you’re slammed for space is to bring tops that you can wear alone or as a layer. Having items in your pack that you only intend to wear as layers (the exception being long underwear or thermals) take up more space.
If you’re in a laundry pinch, then here is a quick and temporary solution–spray deodorant adequately masks odor on clothing for a day or two. But it will catch up to you quickly, and isn’t totally sanitary.
Most bath-related products are very easy to find in cities, so in most cases it’s not necessary to load up on everything before you go. But if you have particular needs, take sufficient supplies to last the trip. For example, if you are allergic to perfumes or other additives to shampoo and conditioner, bring it along. If you can just buy shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and other toiletries right off the shelf and have no requirements, don’t concern yourself with bringing large quantities.
For menstruating individuals, tampon availability can vary greatly between countries. If you prefer tampons to other products, try to take as many with you as possible, or use pads for the trip.
Even if you don’t know where you’re going and don’t have that much time, go consult a doctor to make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date, and give them a rough but inclusive estimate of where you might go so they can help you prepare and get you anything you may need.
The CDC has an intense and comprehensive traveler’s first aid list that covers almost every potential problem, which you can easily change to suit your own needs (or medication allergies).
If you haven’t traveled much and have no idea you might need, here’s a few good ideas:
- Anti-diarrheal medicines. In a travel vaccine consultation, they may offer you some of these in antibiotic or over-the-counter forms. Everyone needs them sooner or later.
- Antihistamines. You don’t know what’s going to cause an allergic reaction until it does, and when that happens antihistamines are there for you.
- Ibuprofen or suitable alternative.
- Moleskin. Blisters suck, especially when you’re walking everywhere.
In my recent travels, I have taken a tiny traveler’s first aid kit with me that I’ve found to be useful. There are single doses of almost everything that you might need contained inside, and if you have prior experience you can always bring along a little more of things you use more often. Should you need more supplies, you can find a pharmacy in pretty much all cities. If you’re trekking or spending long amounts of time in remote or rural areas, please bring more supplies if you can. If you are nervous about running out of a particular item, or if you know you can’t get it easily elsewhere, bring enough of it along to last the trip.
MISCELLANEOUS USEFUL THINGS
It would be too time-consuming to try and run down a list of everything you could possibly need or want, so I’m just going to point out a few things I either regretted not having or deeply appreciated taking.
- Small flashlight. It’s surprising how often you need to see in the dark.
- Small Knife. Handy for cutting up food when you have no utensils or access to a kitchen. Please be aware that some places ban or severely restrict carrying knives around, so please research beforehand to avoid trouble with the authorities! An example here.
- Shitty Shower Shoes. Bring a pair of cheap plastic sandals that you can get wet and dry quickly, because sometimes hostel bathrooms are places where bare feet don’t want to be. Also nice for walking around indoors if you don’t want to got to the trouble of putting on and lacing up your walking shoes.
- Microfiber Towel. Despite being smaller than average they absorb loads of liquid and dry very fast, which is much nicer than carting about. An example here.
What things would you add? Feel free to leave a comment below, or send a message!