Packing for an Around-the-World Trip

When we decided to go on our around-the-world trip, we knew we wanted to pack light. We didn’t know how much we would need to carry our bags and we didn’t know where we’d be staying each night, but we knew we didn’t want to be weighed down by unnecessary items. We went completely basic on this. Our packing list and what we’d recommend for any very lightweight packer:

  • Backpacks: We bought 50-liter Gregory backpacks (we could have gone even smaller) that were top-loading and had plenty of straps to expand and compress our space. When we checked them on airplanes, we tucked all the straps in so nothing would get caught or ripped.
  • Day packs: Evan bought a Domke camera bag that just looked like a small travel bag and concealed his nice, new camera; I got a medium size nylon, collapsible, zip-top purse. We also bought a small fold-up day pack from Kathmandu to take on hikes and other excursions where we would need more than our normal day bags would hold. The bag was very comfortable and folded up into a tiny pouch — definitely one of our best buys.
  • Clothes: We each brought…
    • 1 pair of quick-drying North Face pants which could roll up to be capris
    • 2 short-sleeve quick-drying collared shirts — we chose collared shirts to help keep the sun off our necks and to look a bit more presentable wherever we decided to go
    • 1 lightweight long-sleeve shirt
    • 1 warmer long-sleeve shirt or fleece
    • 1 bathing suit
    • 4 pairs of underwear (plus 2 bras for me — one sport and one regular)
    • 1 pair of socks
    • 1 set of clothes to sleep in — for us, it was shorts and a T-shirt
    • 1 long skirt (just for me, of course)
    • 1 headscarf/sarong (also just for me — and I bought it once we already started traveling)
    • 1 hat that provides good sun coverage (Evan ended up also buying a baseball cap along the way)
  • Shoes: We each brought…
    • 1 pair of Tevas/sport sandals
    • 1 pair of flip flops
  • Toiletries:
    • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
    • A travel-size brush
    • Hair ties
    • Sunscreen (SPF 40 or 50)
    • Basic makeup for me for when we’d go out at night (foundation, mascara, eye liner and lip gloss)
    • Shampoo and Conditioner
    • Deodorant
    • Pumice stone for our feet
    • Razors
    • Nail clippers/scissors
  • Other necessities:
    • Bug spray — 50% deet
    • Money belt — though we realized we didn’t need this once Evan found a hidden interior pocket in his pants
    • Mini sewing kit — we mended both Evan’s pants and my shirt
    • Laundry detergent — for washing clothes in the sink
    • Universal sink plug — also for washing clothes
    • First-aid kit including Band-Aids, neosporin, blister pads, hydrocortisone cream, Immodium, ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol, Rolaids and Benadryl
    • Pack towels, medium size — good for showers if necessary, as impromptu pillow covers on less-than-clean sheets and on day trips where you’ll be near/in the water
    • Plug adapters
    • Ear plugs
    • Toilet paper and tissues — came in very handy as long as we remembered to take them out with us
    • Anti-bacterial hand gel and wipes
    • Cell phones and cell phone chargers
    • Small Swiss Army knife
    • Guide books — we would buy them one or two destinations in advance

Well folks, that’s it. We did laundry every few days and tried to get rooms with balconies so our clothes would dry faster hanging in the breeze. We were surprised at how much we used things like the sink plug and the blister pads. If we were to do it again, I think we would both bring one more pair of pants, one or two more shirts, and two more pairs of underwear, though it was perfectly doable without any extra items — it just felt like we were always doing the laundry.

Another thing we would consider buying is quick-drying underwear. We laughed off the concept when we saw it at the store, especially since a pair cost about £11, but my underwear always seemed to take the longest to dry — and it’s certainly not an item you’d like to put on wet.

As far as brands go, we were very happy with our North Face gear — we both had North Face pants and I had a North Face snap-down collared shirt. We were also happy with our Gregory backpacks and all our day packs.

Evan and me in 1 of our 2 outfits, wearing our day packs and holding our hats. This is what we looked like every day.

I wasn’t as happy with my Berghaus shirt. Berghaus seemed like a good brand, and I liked their organic cotton shirts, but by the time we got to Turkey, a mere two weeks into our trip, the shirt had three holes where the back yoke met the bottom half of the shirt. These weren’t holes that appeared from anything I did, they were areas where the shirt wasn’t constructed properly — there wasn’t enough material to hold it together and it was coming apart and fraying at the seams. I tried to sew it back together, though there wasn’t much to sew. And another week or so later, one of the buttons started popping open at random moments and the whole shirt just started to look seriously ratty. I wouldn’t buy Berghaus again for travel clothes.

Evan also had some problems with his shirts. He had a Mountain Hardware half-zip shirt that suffered from snags right from the start, and his Kathmandu button-down started fraying around the buttons.

Our Tevas gave us some pretty bad blisters along the way. They got a bit better after a few weeks, but then they started coming back. It was nice to have shoes we didn’t have to wear socks with, but our feet certainly paid the price. Our shoes also developed a horrible smell — it started in Thailand after we wore them on our Marine Park excursion and they got wet. They never really dried out before we had to pack them up to fly to our next destination, and when we took them out of our bags, they absolutely reeked. We tried shoe deodorizers, soaking them in bleach and vinegar and leaving them out in the sun, but they never really recovered from the stink. The days when they couldn’t completely dry out — which happened a lot in Thailand — were particularly bad and embarrassing. I don’t know how we could have done things differently on this front, but I’d love to hear anyone’s advice on the subject. And boy were we glad we had another pair of shoes we could wear at least part of the time.

I bought a few items of clothing along the way because I did get bored with wearing the same thing over and over. I bought a skirt and a dress in Thailand as well as a shirt in Istanbul, but that’s it. We also picked up novels along the way — from swaps in hotel lobbies and used and new bookstores. We went through quite a little library by the time we were done.

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