Packing for a long term trip around the world can be a challenge. The contents of your backpack should get you through a variety of climates, sustain you economically, be culturally sensitive, and should support a variety of physical activities without weighing you down.
Here are some items I’ve found to be indispensable during my travels.
1. Fleece and Jacket
A fleece and a wind/waterproof shell worn together or separately give you versatile options which provide protection from a variety of weather.
Jacket Price: $88.83 – $119.00 | BUY | Fleece Top Price: $39.50 | BUY
2. Bank Card
ATMs are becoming more available globally, making it easier than ever to get money in local currency while on the road. Try to have a couple cards for different bank accounts (in case one doesn’t work).
Be sure to investigate how much you will be charged by your bank for international withdrawals.
3. Rain Poncho
A compact yet sturdy rain poncho not only keeps you dry, but can also protect your day pack from moisture. It makes a useful tarp or waterproof mat for sitting on wet surfaces.
Price: $3.95 | BUY
A soft sun hat made from foldable fabric protects you from the sun and is easy to store. The Horizon Mosquito Cap below includes a concealable mosquito net.
Price: $29.94 | BUY
5. Flip flops
Wear them in grungy hotel showers or during tropical rainstorms when the streets are flooded. Use them as beach wear or for killing bugs. Flip flops work indoors when you are visiting countries where people remove outdoor shoes before entering homes.
Price: $12.99 | BUY
6. Sleeping Bag Liner or Sheet Sack
Even if you don’t carry a sleeping bag, bring a liner. This can be a light-weight silk sleeping bag liner or an old bed sheet, folded and sewn into a sack. Use as a blanket on cold bus rides, a layer between your body and beds of dubious cleanliness, or for its original purpose (since it is easier to clean than a sleeping bag.)
Price: $39.00 | BUY
7. Headscarf or Large Bandanna
Choose a bandanna made of sturdy lightweight material. For women, this may be necessary when visiting places like mosques, Russian Orthodox churches, and more conservative Middle Eastern countries. It also can be used as a bag (tie the corners together), a neck scarf, a way to keep hair out of your face, protection from sand and dust (wrapped around nose and mouth), a window shade (for sunny car rides), and as a halter top.
Price: $1.98 | BUY
8. Waterproof Bags
Useful for protecting important documents that you are not carrying on your person. They can also protect electronic equipment, keep small pieces of clothing dry, or keep potentially leaky items (shampoo, lotion) from getting all over your luggage.
Price: $9.39 – $17.99 | BUY
9. Digital Camera
If you’re traveling around the world, chances are you want to document your travels. Be sure to pack extra memory, and a memory reader so you can occasionally burn photos onto CD/DVD and send an extra copy back home (or upload to online storage space such as Flickr). You can also use a digital camera to store information, such as maps, documents, and other files.
Price: $229.88 | BUY
10. Elastic Clothesline with Hooks
An elastic clothesline makes it easy to hang up and dry laundry anywhere. It is also useful for strapping or tying objects together. Some lines come with suction cups which don’t work as well so make sure you get one with hooks or loops.
Price: $9.94 | BUY
11. Small Flashlight
I carry a Maglite in my day pack because one never knows when the electricity will go out or you’ll find yourself walking down a dark, potholed street.
Editor’s Note – An alternative to flashlights are headlamps which serve the same purpose while freeing up your hands.
Price: $26.64 | BUY.
12. Day Pack
You are going to be carrying a day pack with you most of the time so make sure it has plenty of pockets (both internal and external), is strong, and provides comfortable straps. Consider getting one that can be folded up and stuffed into your regular backpack.
Price: $44.99 | BUY
13. The Keeper (for women only)
Definitely not for everyone but this little cup will minimize the amount of pads you need. Great in countries where access to tampons is a lot more difficult. It reduces the amount of trash you generate, the weight in your bag, money spent on feminine products, and emergency runs to the store.
Price: $35.00 | BUY
14. Swiss Army Knife
The Spartan model includes 2 knives, a pair of scissors, a can opener, a bottle opener, toothpick, tweezers, awl, and corkscrew – sufficient tools while traveling.
Price: $28.89 | BUY
15. Money Belt
A money belt keeps cash, cards, and passports safely concealed. You may want a second storage belt such as a neck pouch to keep smaller amounts of cash for daily purchases.
Price: $11.95 – $12.00 | BUY
16. Thermal Underwear
Long thermal underwear provides much needed warmth when traveling in colder climates. I use a combination of black midweight bottoms and a midweight top. The bottoms double as comfortable leggings for lounging around, stockings underneath a skirt, and pajama bottoms. The top can be used as a sweatshirt as well.
Price: $6.80 – $23.00 | BUY
Price: $14.74 – $23.00 | BUY
17. Sewing Supplies
Sure you can buy these anywhere but sewing supplies are good to have on hand. Make sure your pack includes needles, thread, and some dental floss. Repair heavier items (leather, backpacks) with dental floss. A needle can be used to remove splinters, as well.
18. Sarong or Travel Towel
On my round-the-world trip, I took a regular towel and deeply regret it. An absorbent, fast drying travel towel will suit your needs. A sarong has the advantage of drying quickly while doubling up as clothing.
Price: $12.50 – $33.95 | BUY
Choose quality items that will last your whole trip and don’t underestimate the importance of light-weight items. Backpacks get heavier as you travel so you will be happy that you spent a little extra upfront investing in lightweight, multipurpose gear.