Packing for travel can often be very difficult — especially for beginners. Many first-time travelers make the mistake of bringing way too much gear so that travel quickly becomes tiresome.
To be honest, there isn’t really any difference between packing for 6 weeks and 6 months because you’ll do laundry just about every week(ish), and everyone you’re traveling with will be repeating outfits too…
When you’re making the final decisions on your travel packing list, the key question to answer for yourself is:
“When it’s 30 degrees and I’m running to catch a bus/train/tuk tuk/elephant, what do I want to be carrying on my back?”
I know what you’re thinking… what happens when you board that long bus journey and cross from the warm sunshine coast into the snow capped mountains, when the shorts and thongs get pushed to the darkest corners of your bag and you find yourself on the side of the road digging into your backpack for those woolly socks you told Mum you wouldn’t need.
Yep, I’ve been there, I feel ya.. and unless i’m snowboarding – I detest the cold. So listed below are a few travel tips that might help you with this packing dilemma that I learned after traveling across all different kinds of tropics, beaches, volcanoes, snowstorms, deserts, hurricanes and climates.
Firstly, let’s get one thing clear, this is a guide listing essentials for different climates. What I’m not doing is writing you an itinerary for your backpack. Use common-sense when it comes to quantity and always opt for quality.
If you’re traveling around the world then you are grown up enough to decide how many pairs of socks you think you’ll need and whether that extra pair of shoes is really necessary.
I’m feelin’ hot hot hot
Sarong: A must have. They are lightweight, take up hardly any space, quick drying and great for many uses… picnic blanket, beach towel, pillow, scarf, blanket on those cold bus trips.. and you can even tie the corners together and you have a carry bag! Win!
Sunblock: don’t expect to find it in every town, have one tube as a back up is always good.
Thongs: easy to slip on and pack, also good for the beach and hostel showers.
Long sleeve lightweight shirt: its good to cover your skin from the blazing desert sun as well as showing respect to local customs without layering up with winter clothes in hot weather.
It’s a bit chilly
Wind proof jacket: Lightweight, easy to pack as they roll up nicely & often usually waterproof too. I personally like the range from Kathmandu.
Beanie & good socks: Listen to Mum. Get a few pairs of quality mittens for your toes. Think Egyptian cotton bedsheets – but for your feet. The best point however: they’re less stinky because they’re made from the good stuff that lets your feet breathe.
Hiking shoes: Tie the laces around the straps outside of your backpack when you’re not wearing them to save space & air them out. If your head and feet are warm, the rest of you will be pretty warm too.
Thermal undergarments: Saves wearing 10 shirts and 4 layers under your clothes. Thermals are usually lightweight and designed to keep you toasty in weather that gets your goosebumps going.
Necessities & Must have’s
Quick dry towel + Band-aids + Earplugs & Eye mask + Bug spray + Tea tree oil or antiseptic cream
Dry shampoo (when showers are scarce, this beauty item will work a treat)
A second set of headphones: If you don’t lose the first pair, then you’re a wizard. Because everyone loses the first pair.
Ziplock bag: These come in handy for storing wet clothes, keeping socks/underwear in one place, storing toiletries/soap, keeping snacks for long travel journeys.
You think you need these… but you don’t.
Heels: Don’t be that girl.
Jeans: They take up a lot of space, take forever to dry and are heavy. Find a pants alternative, or only bring ONE pair if you must.
Jewelry: No matter where you are; when traveling it’s best not to draw attention to yourself with expensive looking things.
Camera: I traveled for 10 months with my iPhone as my camera, it was always with me & fit nicely in my pocket. The quality of my photos were very good and some even made the cut to be published in a travel magazine. Gone are the days when you need to lug around a DSLR Canon and $2000 lense for quality shots. For underwater adventures you can splurge on a waterproof case for your smartphone.
Sleeping bag: They’re only for sleeping..I don’t like wasting space in my backpack and multi-use items are the best for traveling! So ditch the puffy sleeping bag and get yourself a warm jacket & thermals instead that you can sleep in. * The exception here is if your planning to camp.
Books: We live in the digital age my friends, only carry one book at a time with you. They are are bulky and heavy. I love to read, but i keep my bookshelf at home and read from an electronic kindle when I travel. Many hostels have a collection of books, and you’re normally free to swap. Some of my favorite reads have been books I’ve swapped with like-minded travelers along the way.
What about the Backpack?
Size matters. Talking backpacks, the smaller the better.
There are times when you will be walking long distances with that bad boy. Starting off on the right foot with your new canvas bestie will make your life easier from the get-go. You will grow to love and hate your backpack, it’s your home with all you stuff, often your pillow, and a companion it’s always with you.
I love the convenience of a side zip access rather than jamming everything from top down. Also compartments are not always essential but can help keep things organised. A waterproof cover is a great addition or you can buy them separately. A smaller day pack which can clip on and off your bigger bag is always a great thing to have. Each to their own, shop around for what you think will suit your needs best.
Whether your traveling for 6 weeks or 6 months, you need less than you think.
If you’re a digital nomad or remote worker who is currently on the road, we recommend checking out this curated list of the best men’s backpacks for work.
My advise is to pack your bag, like really pack it with the things you think you absolutely need & can’t live without. Now half it, then half it again.
Live for experiences, stories, moments. Not outfits and things.
Isn’t that why you’re going backpacking in the first place 😉
If you have any questions please comment below, you can contact me at email@example.com, I would love to hear from you or about your travel stories!
Happy travels 🙂
Awesome post, Marcello! Very inspiring…I’m almost done packing my bags after reading your article. I’m sure my sister is going to love it too! Cheers and thanks for sharing.
Thanks for this Marcello! I’m in the market for purchasing “the bag”. My choices are just either the Tortuga Outbreaker or the Minaal Carry-On 2.0. Have you ever tried those?