Essential Packing for Long Term Travel Abroad

Packing for an extended travel can be very tricky indeed. It is one thing to pack for a vacation where you are staying in one resort and not moving for the week or two that you are away. You can pack all you want because you only ever have to deal with your luggage at the airport and transfers where you have trollys and valets to help you out.  But it is completely another experience to pack for a travel that will keep you on the move for months on end.

But it is completely another experience to pack for a travel that will keep you on the move for months on end.

Choosing your Luggage

Many people feel that with the invention of fantastic wheeled suitcases that this would be the best choice of luggage.  However, you may experience rough roads, sandy beaches, rocks or jungle trails that you will have to walk through during you travels.  This is where a suitcase of any type is not an option. That is why whenever we travel for long period of time, we use a backpack.

This is where a suitcase of any type is not an option. That is why whenever we travel for long period of time, we use a backpack.

A good quality 70 litre backpack can be bought at Mec, Europe Bound or Hikers Haven.  You can read more about the pack that we chose at our post on Choosing the right Pack for Travel.

Here is a list of what we think is essential to pack  for extended periods of travel

A money belt is still a must for travel to keep you valuables is. You can buy one that goes on your leg, around your waist or around your neck.

Several photocopies of all important documents spread throughout your luggage in case anything goes missing.

Extra passport photos for Visas and border crossing. In India we have learned that we even need two passport photos to buy a SIM Card.

Copies of credit card, passport, bank numbers, important phone numbers etc. written down in a safe location. Preferably in more than one location in your luggage.

Copies of prescription medications and eye prescriptions. If you wear glasses, pack an extra pair.  In Africa, I broke 2 pairs in a matter of two weeks.  I was stuck wearing my prescription sunglasses for a month and a half.  Luckily I had a lot of contact lenses, but in sand, dirt or jungle sometimes you don't feel like putting in your contacts.

Locks- for every zipper or opening in your pack as well as an extra padlock of combination lock for hotels, lodges etc.  Some places allow you to double lock your door on the outside with your own combination lock.

Zip Lock Bags.  These are handy to separate clothes and keep things dry. We pack everything in Zip Lock Bags. We have done so for years and probably won't stop. 

Rain and humidity can take its toll and in many places you will be travelling by bus where they will throw your packs on the roof with no coverage what so ever.  If the rain comes, at least your contents will remain dry.

Hiking Boots and Flip Flops, that is all we need for foot wear ever. Don't go crazy on shoes. If you don't plan on climbing mountains, replace Hiking Boots for Solamon All Terrain Shoes used for adventure racing. 

You can wear them in water, hiking, climbing, on the street.  They are all we have ever used in the past.  We are now switching to hiking boots because we plan on climbing more mountains.

Sarongs.  If you don't have any, buy them when you get there if you are going to a tropical climate.  These are great for everything.  Some places don't have sheets and they can be used as sheets, a skirt for an evening out (if it is a nice sarong) for on the beach, for showering if you have to shower in a public place, to put over you to visit temples.  I always like to bring at least 4 sarongs with me.

Microfibre towels – buy a lightweight towel by Lightload Towels Beach Towel (36″ x 60″), they dry quickly, take up less space and weigh very little.

Silk sleeping bag liners, a lot of times you will be in hot climates, so you don't need to pack a sleeping bag, but silk liners are great for warmth and can be used just as the sarongs.  If you are on a trek where you are sleeping on just a board with some padded matts, the silk liner works great.

You can bring a sleeping bag, we have packed a very light weight bag that stuffs into a very small sack and takes up very little room, but unless you are camping regularly it is not needed.  Most trekking companies supply sleeping bags.

A good first aid kit with everything you need. Travel medications that you will get from a travel clinic doctor.  Cipro an antibiotic to cure diarrhea is a must, malaria medication, advil, eye drops, altitude pills, immodium, rehydration tablets, water purification tablets, allergy medication. 

These are all a must as well as your basic first aid kit with band-aids, burn and sting relief, tensor bandage.  You will be out on trails a lot, on remote islands, in the middle of nowhere, you need to be prepared for any situation.

We have a  post on what to pack in a first aid kit for long term travel with great comments from other people

Good insect repellent, sunscreen and after sun lotion to relieve sunburn.  Even if you never burn at home, chances are you will burn it a hot climate.

Solar charger and a good set of  plug converters. They change from country to country, so  have a complete set.

A power bar Belkin BZ103050vTVL Mini Surge Protector/Dual USB Charger
The Belkin Mini surge protector is great and it charges your ipod too! Great for charging several electronics at once. Also you only need one adapter. 

In Africa, we spent a lot of time changing up our electronics to charge. We finally bought a power bar and could charge our cell phone, computer, ipods, camera and video camera all at once!

A good reliable sports watch with an alarm. Sometimes you will be getting up at 4:00 am to catch a sunrise or need to catch a bus after a long  night.  A watch with an alarm takes up less space than an alarm clock. Don't go expensive though, you don't want to be a target.

Scissors, nail clippers:  hygiene can keep you from getting sick. Keep your nails short.  Travelling for a long time, you will also need to cut your hair.  We are not fussy and cut each others on the road even though we could easily go to a salon anywhere, it is still important to have scissors for emergencies.

Sewing kit. Can't tell you the amount of times I have used this.

Gold Bond.  this has always been our savior. Gold Bond Helps with heat rash and really soothes chafed skin.  This is always the first thing that we throw into our backpack and it has come to the rescue many times.

Peppermint oil. Many places have a musty odour, or smoking is allowed etc.  Peppermint oil will make your room smell minty fresh and it is great for sore muscles and congested sinuses.

We always pack a down jacket. They stuff to very little and can be used as a pillow.  We bring a travel size pillow case, stuff our coats in them and they can be used to sit on during uncomfortable boat rides or bench seating on trains and can be used to lean your head on. 

I have never regretted bringing my down North Face coat. It is not for everyone, but we tend to go into the mountains a lot.

Headlamps, candles and matches are all a must. We use the Petzl Tikka Plus 4-LED Headlamp and love it. It is lightweight and bright.

Even before we started adventure traveling, we needed a headlamp.  They are great for exploring caves, in rooms with no light and of course and early morning trek or night safari in the jungle.

A sun hat and warm hat are a must as well.  Even in warm climates it can be cold at night.  In Vietnam's north, we wore fleece sweaters and tuques (Canadian for a winter hat)

Earplugs, inflatable travel pillow, the u-shaped kind, eye mask

EyeGlass Repair Kit – Not only for prescription glasses but for sun glasses too. Plus that little screwdriver can come in handy quite a bit

ClotheslineTravel Laundry Clothesline – Flexolineis fantastic. Even if you have your laundry done for you everyday it is great for drying out clothes. Etc.

We could go on and tell you how many shorts shirts and trekking pants etc to pack, but that is a personal choice.  Just remember less is more when packing for long term travel.  This is simply a list of the essential items needed. 

You don't need to bring everything for every situation with you, you can always buy them while you are abroad.  When we climbed Kilimanjaro, we borrowed everything right down to our hiking boots.  So if you don't plan on going to altitude or cold weather a lot, leave the cold weather gear at home and rent it when you get there.

You can check out our post on Electronics while traveling to see what we are planning on bringing with us to India, but we are also going to be writing and blogging a lot.  I don't think that the average person needs to pack two laptop computers. The key is to keep it lightweight and scaled down.  The less you have, the happier the travel.  Guaranteed.

The key is to keep it lightweight and scaled down.  The less you have, the happier the travel.  Guaranteed.


Read More:

13 Essential Items for India, and 5 We Wish We Had

6 Winter Layering Tips to Dress for the Deep Freeze

How to Pack for an Antarctica Cruise

Packing Tips for Winter Travel

How to Pack for an Antarctica Cruise

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