12 Essential Items to Pack for Long-Term Travel
One of the most common questions I get about travel is how I pack for a long-term trip.
Long term trips require you to pack as light as possible but also factor in clothes for hot and cold climates, dry and wet conditions, countries that may require you to dress modestly, and also make you look reasonably well-dressed.
In travelling the whole world, not only do you experience different climates but also different cultures. What I wore every day in South America made me look unkempt in Europe. Shorts and a t-shirt in Southeast Asia won’t keep me warm for freezing temperatures in the mountains of South America.
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For me, it’s not possible to take everything I need when I head out on a long-term trip.
Along the way, I had to replace ruined clothes, buy new clothes to fit into a new continent, and post items home that I no longer needed.
I had a “resupply” box sent to a friend overseas with items I knew would need replacing during my trip. Clothes get stretched, filthy, and torn after wearing them week in and week out. You lose things all the time – I swear I lost a pair of underwear or a sock every other week. The box was sent to a friend in a destination I expected to be at the halfway mark on my long-term trip.
When I set off on an overseas adventure, these are the staple items that I have in my backpack.
Jeans are a good staple. They can be worn in cold climates and you can also dress them up if you need to go out at night. I also travel with a pair of light travel pants – these come in handy on my travel days and also in countries where I need to be a little covered up.
I carry 8 pairs of underwear and hope I can wash at least once a week. If not, sometimes I have to handwash underwear to get me through.
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Shorts are great for hot climates. While denim shorts are heavier than cotton shorts, I do find they are more durable and maintain their look for longer. I didn’t need to replace my denim shorts during my last 9-month trip.
I also carry a pair of hiking shorts, which double as my pyjama bottoms.
Don’t skimp on socks. Make sure you bring along a couple of good quality pairs of socks that are durable as you’ll be wearing them a lot. Because I hike at least once a fortnight on my travels, I bring two pairs of good quality wool socks purchased from specialist hiking stores. I also bring a light pair of ankle socks to go with my sneakers.
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This one is for the ladies. Sometimes you’ll want to look nice on your travels and go out at night to a restaurant or a bar – and not just in jeans. I always carry a good dress for these occasions as well as black sandals that can also be worn casually. I also carry a more casual dress for when I’m bored of wearing shorts and a T-shirt.
A rainjacket is sure to come in handy many times during your travels – especially if you’re an outdoor lover. Make sure you pack a good quality rain jacket. I don’t carry an umbrella on my travels and simply rely on my rainjacket in wet weather. A good quality rainjacket will last you your entire trip.
I carry two pairs of tights with me when I’m travelling. One is my hiking tights, and another is a thin pair of tights for casual wear or sometimes they double as pyjamas on cool nights.
#8. Comfortable T-Shirts
I always bring three cheap T-shirts in my backpack (two for daywear, one is a pyjama top). In addition, I carry a moisture wicking T-shirt for hiking. T-shirts are always something that need replacing during long term travel – they get stretched owing to constant wear and washing and deteriorate due to sweat. In addition, I also have a light singlet for those times when I don’t want to wear a T-shirt, and a loose cotton long-sleeved shirt if it’s a bit cold during the day or to sleep in at night.
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#9. Warm jacket
You’ll want to bring one good jacket on your trip, particularly if you expect to visit cold climates. I bring a warm down jacket and wear it many times during long term trips, especially when hiking at high altitude. A good quality jacket will last your entire trip.
#10. Beanie and gloves
This one is probably only for the hikers or those planning to spend a decent amount of time in cold countries.
I always have a beanie and gloves with me for hiking as I easily get cold, especially at high altitudes.
I bring along four pairs of shoes on my travels. This includes hiking boots, dress sandals, flip flops and a pair of sneakers. Because my hiking shoes are so bulky, I have to wear them whenever I’m in transit.
My staple toiletry items are a roll-on deodorant, solid shampoo bar, soap bar, bottle of conditioner, face and body moisturiser, toothpaste, toothbrush, tube of foundation and mascara.
I also carry a bottle of sunscreen and insect repellent.
Of course, most of your toiletries will need to be replenished throughout your trip.
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Packing Tips for Long-Term Travel
- Pack items that you don’t mind if they get ruined. About 5-6 months in (especially if you’re travelling in hot countries) most of your clothes will be ruined from sweat and washing frequently.
- Send a resupply box to a friend overseas to hold for you. If you send a box by sea it can take up to three months to get there but it’s a lot cheaper than airmail. You just need to plan ahead – and post the box when you’re about to head overseas.
- Don’t try and pack for every country. Accept that you will have to buy clothing along the way. Also remember that after a few months, you will hate all your clothes so you’ll appreciate having a reason to buy some new ones.
- Make sure you have good quality staple clothing to be prepared for rain and cold such as a down jacket and rainjacket. You’ll need these for the duration of your trip.
- If you can carry it, a sleeping bag is a good thing to bring as it gives you flexibility if you want to camp along the way. And if you’re a cold sleeper like me, you might find hostels either don’t give you enough blankets or other travellers turn the air-conditioner to freezing at night!
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Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography,travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 80 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More India.