About our RTW packing list
One of the most common questions we got asked about our 6-month trip around the world was:
How did you guys pack for 6 months into carry-on?
The truth is: it wasn’t that hard, not for us. Long-term travel is different than short-term, and in some sense, it’s even easier to pack for. You can’t possibly bring enough shampoo to last you for a year and you probably won’t run around with 3 suitcases.
One thing we have to agree on: we’ll talk about what to have in your backpack. There are people who prefer travel long-term with a suitcase, but not us. I won’t get into details of backpack vs suitcase, that’s the whole other story (yes, we do travel with suitcases too!). So, here we go, how to pack for your long-term travel.
Click here to read the review of different backpacks at Thrifty Family Travels
What did we have in our bags?
As we traveled together, things in our bags were slightly different. Our main goal was to be able to travel with carry-on luggage only, so we used 40L backpacks for 6 month trip. We both had backpacks by Osprey, mine was Farview 40 for women, and Anders carried Farpoint 40. If we had done it again, we’d probably swap Farpoint 40 to Farpoint 55. However, just because of the day pack, not because we lacked space. So let’s take a look inside each bag.
Even though it doesn’t look like that on the photos, bags are of the same size.
What did Ženja have in her bag?
So, here are pretty much contents of my bag. The main exception is: on the photo I have a drone that was actually in Anders’ bag, but since I was using our DSLR to make photos and videos for this article, I replaced it with the drone bag. The size is approximately the same; I had DSLR plus extra lens and remote in a small bag, which I also used for a casual day bag.
Here’s what you see on this photo:
- Two items on the left: hiking boots and set of clothes – something like that I would normally wear in the airplane/bus
- Running shoes
- Packing cube with clothes
- Shell jacket
- iPad mini
- DSLR bag with extra lens (camouflaging as drone on this photo)
- Lightweight travel tripod
- Packing cube with cables
- Portable power bank
- Passport wallet
- Notebook with a pen
- Micro-fiber towel
- Laundry bag
- 100% silk sheet
- Bungee cord hooks
- Bag with liquids
- Bag with other personal hygiene items
- Tangle Teezer comb
- Make-up removing tissues
- Smartphone armband with headphones
- Sneaker balls
- TSA lock
- Sleeping mask
- Small currency wallet
- Wooden comb
- Pack of tissues
- Shoulder strap for a backpack (comes with a backpack as it’s doubling up as a duffel bag)
What did Anders have in his bag?
- Hoodie that Anders would wear during transport
- Running shoes
- Packing cube with clothes
- Shell jacket
- iPad keyboard
- Micro-fiber towel
- Scrubba Laundry bag
- 100% silk sheet
- Bag with liquids and personal hygiene items
- Sleeping mask
- Neck gaiter
- Laundry detergent in leaves
- Soap leaves
- Resistance bands
- Knee band
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the items on our RTW packing list.
We both took only 3 pairs of shoes with us: hiking shoes, running shoes and flip-flops. Truth is: I’m a flip-flop person and so is Anders. We can wear them while exploring the city, on the beach, in a hostel and wherever else it’s warm. For our trip we planned a lot of hiking and trekking, hence hiking shoes. And our sports shoes are great for both walking around the town and exercising; they are light-weight, comfortable and we absolutely adore them! Of course, you can choose whichever shoes you need or want to have with you. For example, if you’re not into running or exercising, you can bring a pair of converse. Or change flip flops to sandals. It’s up to you!
Click on images below to see more details on Amazon.
For outer layer we use shell coats. They are water- and windproof and even in colder weather sufficient when wearing multiple layers underneath. I have minimalist lightweight jacket by Marmot and Anders uses Beta SL jacket by Arc’teryx. Both jackets are GORE-TEX.
What to look for in a shell jacket?
For us it was important that it’s waterproof, windproof, lightweight, breathable, packable and durable.
Click on images below to see more details on Amazon.
This is probably where it “goes wrong” for the most of us. While the amount of clothes you might want to bring with you is infinite, consider your needs. You don’t have to bring 15 pairs of socks, since you’ll be doing laundry on the way. If something breaks, you can always replace it. Plan for different weather, bring layers and don’t over-pack. Yes, you don’t want to have the same clothes on every photo you take, but sometimes we can’t have it all. Try to bring enough to mix and match, and remember: other countries have shops too. For packing cubes we used Eagle Creek Compression Cubes, which are quite handy and lightweight. They saved us a lot of space because of the way they compress after you zip them.
One more tip: bring something a little “nicer” to wear, in case you’ll end up going somewhere with dress code or being invited to Serbian wedding.
Probably biggest difference between me and Anders was the variety of clothes we had to bring. Men!! They are so lucky. Anders had 2 pairs of Rip Curl Boardwalks, which are truly amazing – comfortable, light and stretchy hybrid swim shorts. You can use them for walking around, hiking, exercising, swimming.. They dry really quickly and if the weather is good, you just don’t need anything else. And ladies? I can’t do all these things in the same clothes. I need bikini for swimming, a sports bra for exercising, and I definitely can’t wear my sports shorts with a nice shirt for?! You get the point.
To finish up, one thing that we both discovered was new underwear, which is great to travel with. For me it was Uniqlo AIRism Ultra Seamless underwear. They seem to fold into a thin air and are extremely comfortable. Anders enjoyed traveling in ExOfficio Boxer Briefs, which are antibacterial and breathable.
Why worry at all?
You need to be aware, depending on where you travel, that you might not always be able to do laundry in your accommodation or around it. Of course, you can do it by hand, but in some hostels located in the desert areas, they don’t even allow that. As you can see, we had two laundry bags: I had an ordinary laundry bag (just for separating clothes and occasional other uses) and Anders had Scrubba wash bag, which we used to wash our clothing. We also carried Sea To Summit Pocket Laundry Wash during our long-term travel, which comes with 50 leaves and takes almost no space.
There is one thing we always bring on our trips, and that’s our microfiber towels. Of course, we had to include them in our RTW packing list! For me it’s Sea To Summit Antibacterial Drylite MicroTowel. Anders uses Cocoon Ultralight Microfiber Towel. Besides toiletries, we also brought pocket soap leaves.
Consider bringing a hat/cap and scarf/neck gaiter.
All the bags we use for toiletries are see-through, so we can use them while passing airport security.
For personal toiletries and make-up, you need to decide what’s important to you. Obviously, you can’t bring everything. But you can buy stuff on the go. For example, I’m not very specific in what kind of shower gel I use, but my skin is not the easiest to deal with. This is why I prefer to have some specific skin products with me. Also, I’m not into lipsticks, but I did bring around an eyebrow dye, because after sufficient amount of sun you won’t even see I have any eyebrows. If you are traveling as a couple, consider sharing some things – you can share a toothpaste, shower gel or even shampoo (this way you won’t have to bring everything in your own toiletry bag!). Again, you can’t take enough stuff for 6 months or a year, so we recommend buying something on your trip.
As for accessories I only brought a few pairs of earrings and a light necklace, all of which fit into one of these small GoTubb containers.
Now to more delicate topics: your period.
We all have our preferences, some use pads, some use tampons, and depending on where you are heading, most likely you can buy them. It might not be your favorite brand, but you’ll find something, unless you are planning to spend over a month in a jungle/desert. I personally prefer a cup (I use Mooncup) – it’s easy, safe, eco-friendly and saves you a lot of headache on the road. Lately I’ve been transitioning to some environmentally friendly alternatives in general, so some of the above mentioned items will be soon replaced. Let me know if you have any ideas and inspirations about eco-friendly toiletries for your RTW packing list!
Bring whatever you need.
Maybe we went a little overboard with our electronics, but to be honest, we didn’t regret it. On our RTW packing list we had 2 iPads (mini and air) for entertainment, a computer for work, DSLR with extra lens, GoPro and a drone. We lost a pouch with all our GoPro accessories in Rio, so for the rest of the trip we only had GoPro itself in a waterproof case. But we still used it. If I would change something, I would bring mirrorless camera instead of DSLR, but that’s what we had at that moment and we didn’t want to buy a new camera. Now we travel with our cables packed into an Eagle Creek Pouch and our favorite MOGICS Bagel for power. I also bring along a power bank.
We use DJI Mavic Pro, which we bought before Mavic Air came out. We bought it for making aerial photos and videos (duuh), but apparently it’s also a cool toy and a very expensive selfie camera. If you decide to bring a drone to your trip, you have to be aware of a few things.
- Different countries have different rules about flying and bringing drone into the country. For example, while normally you have to bring your drone in a carry-on, Hungary wants you to pack your drone in a hold baggage. Cuba prohibits bringing in drones all together, so we had to ship ours from Peru to Bulgaria.
- Good quality drone can take up a significant part of your luggage. You will quickly realize that you can’t use it in many places. Thus, think in advance – why, where and how much you plan to use your drone, and if it’s worth taking it with.
- Please, always be considerate of other people, countries and cultures. Don’t fly drone where it’s prohibited, especially when you are clearly disturbing other people or wildlife. Be respectful and abide by the law.
Today phones take such great photos that you might not bring a camera at all. We brought our old DSLR (Nikon D5200) together with 2 recently purchased lenses, but it was quite heavy. That’s one of the reasons next time we invest in the camera, it will probably be mirrorless. If you decide to bring a camera, read tips below.
- Bring additional battery. You never know when you run out of power, so bring both batteries around.
- Bring a hard drive or get a cloud subscription. We’ve heard so many times about how someone’s camera got lost or stolen and so were all the amazing memories. Back up your photos every few days!
- Make sure you practice taking photos with your camera before you head out. This way you’ll be ready to use it!
If you need to do some work, there’s a big chance you are bringing a laptop. Today, of course, it’s not necessary – there are so many capable tablets and even phones, it gives you plenty of possibilities. But depending on your needs, you might choose a notebook after all. Before the trip, we bought new laptop, having our long-term travel in mind. We chose Dell XPS and frankly, I’ve been super happy about it. It’s lightweight, convenient and has a great screen for photo editing.
We both brought iPads with us, and we won’t apologize – simply for entertainment. Anders used his for writing or finding out our next step while I was working on laptop, that’s why he had keyboard with him. iPads can be a good entertainment while you are on a bus or plane, and can be a great tool in finding hostels, flights, bus schedules and more.
I wouldn’t say that GoPro was the best thing we’ve ever bought, but there are some quite cool pictures we’ve taken that we wouldn’t have without it. However, we found that we used it much less than we initially planned, especially since after first month we suddenly were left without any additional equipment and decided not to invest again during the trip.
There were a few other things we added to our RTW packing list and were happy about it. When in Paraty, the choice of places to stay wasn’t that good, so we ended up in a pleasant hostel with erm.. not that pleasant sheets. This was one of many times we were glad to have Cocoon Silk Travel Sheets. When we had to find a place to hang our laundry while camping in places like Bosnia and Herzegovina, we used bungee cords with hooks similar to these ones. I can’t count how many times in New Zealand we ate with our sporks. And of course, one adorable item we never knew we needed – an Ööloom sleeping mask – we used them in hostels, on the planes, buses and trains.
- TSA Lock with or without a cable – cable is good for example for locking your bag to your seat in a dodgy bus
- Insulated bottle for tea and water like Thinksport or Klean Kanteen
- Many travelers know how difficult it can be to get a photo of themselves – we brought this Miggo Mini Tripod
- To keep things in order, especially while we fly, I use my favorite Bellroy Pocket as my travel wallet – it fits my passport, cards, phone, few cables, headphones and it comes with a pen
Things to consider
Unless you’re traveling indefinitely, you probably have a rough idea of what climate you’ll be in. At the very least, you have an idea what countries or region you will be visiting – try to plan accordingly. For example, if most of the time you will be in temperatures over 15 degrees, there might be no need to bring a warmer clothing. Often when you take hikes and treks you are able to rent the equipment, like we did during out Salkantay Trek. If you’re gonna use these walking sticks only once, there might be no need to bring them around for a year.
Are you traveling alone or with a buddy?
There are advantages in traveling with your friend or partner: you can share space in your backpacks. However, do that only if you plan to take the whole trip together. As I mentioned above, you might use the same toothpaste or shampoo. I carried around our cable pouch, computer and DSLR, Anders was the one having wash bag, drone and GoPro in his backpack. Make a plan together, see how you can help each other.
This is something you have to decide on your own. Think of what kind of trip do you want, what are the things you’d like to have with you and be realistic about your packing skills. We showed you how it is possible to pack into 40L backpacks for your long-term travel, but you might choose the other way. If you do, go ahead and share your RTW packing list with us!
To sum up
We are quite happy with what we had with us, but during the trip our gear changed according to our needs. If we did again, we would change one of the backpacks 55L to have the daypack. Besides that, our RTW packing list was very suitable: we didn’t have anything we didn’t use or need and we didn’t miss anything either. With a little planning, it can be done to pack into a 40L backpack for a long-term travel.
I hope we gave you enough ideas on what to pack and let us know in the comments below if you have any answers. Next time I’m going on a trip, I’ll try to fold my T-shirts Marie Kondo style 🙂
Read some of our stories:
Salkantay Trek: a Terrific Trail to Machu Picchu
Curto Cafe: Revolutionizing Coffee Shops
Ups and Downs of Tongariro Crossing
Excellent tips- you are great packers! We often travel with only carry-on bags and we are pretty decent at packing them but there are a few great items here we should be packing!
Thanks Elizabeth! Yeah, I also always enjoy reading other people’s lists, everyone has such a personalized set of items and always great ideas.
Wow, you guys really did an amazing job packing for such a long trip. The packing cubes must have been great for keeping things separated and organized in such a small space. The next time I try to take an enormous suitcase for a seven-day trip, I’ll remember your post 🙂
Thanks Carrie! 🙂 We also have friends who always pack big, and I do get it – some people want to bring many different outfits, their own hair dryers or other stuff even for the short trip, and that’s also great. This is just our way of doing it.
Great list o things! We found it so important to plan it out and even have a checklist before traveling so we don’t forget anything. We’ve learned from our mistakes
True! I must admit we don’t do checklists anymore, since it’s pretty much standard set of things we always bring. But now at least I can refer back to this blog post to check if we took everything we need 🙂
Great tips. We travel a lot and usually manage with just hand baggage – our checked in bags have gone missing too many times. I can’t believe how much some people pack. Not used packing cubes before, would you recommend them?
Thanks Sarah! Luckily, my checked in bag only was missing once, and I got it back after a few days. But since it was in Venezuela, it created a big enough mess 🙂
I do recommend packing cubes! We don’t use too many, but they help have things in order instead of big backpack mess. Plus those we use for clothes – they can compress whatever you have so it takes up even less space.
This is so great! We did 7 weeks with just the Farpoint 40, and you really just get used to it, don’t you? Even in that time, we replaced many of the clothes that we had brought with us over the course of our travels. I learned so much about letting go of material items on that trip!
I love Farpoint 40! And yes, I agree – letting go of things is something you definitely learn on trips like that! Thanks for your comment Dani, I’m glad other people relate to our experiences 🙂
wow, you’re a pro backpacker, I do backpacking too, but you have a smaller backpack. That’s so awesome. Might try that someday 🙂 so cool!
Hah, thanks Laurence! It all depends on our needs 🙂
Awesome tips! I always pack too much even for my short trips so I can’t believe you guys were able to pack like this for six months! You really have it down to a science!
Haha thanks Brittany, I take it as a compliment! 🙂
Traveling light and packing right is our mantra too for all our family holidays. The kids have gradually evolved now to pack light on their own. I like this “full disclosure” post of yours.
Thank you Richa! And that’s awesome – your kids learning packing light and the real value of things so early in life 🙂
Wow, this is awesome. I travel light but you guys have it down to a fine art. I’m planning on a long trip in the next couple of year so this has inspired me to travel very light and given me ideas on how to achieve this!
I’m so glad to hear that! Thank you Vanessa, it makes me smile! 🙂 Hope you enjoy your trip!
I always had issues with travelling light even if it is only for a short vacation. Your post actually makes me want to try harder.
The best part is that you don’t HAVE TO travel light 🙂 We all have different needs, interests and preferences!
I’m planning a long term solo travel. So this post will be quite useful. Perfectly detailed and organised. Bookmarking it for future reference.
Thank you! I’m happy to hear that you found it useful 🙂
oh wow these are excellent tips. Thanks so much for sharing all of them. I don’t know how I do it that every time I have to travel I wear so many things….I will put in practice some of them 😉
Hahaha 😀 Yes, that happens! Even with our light packing, I sometimes have some stuff I don’t use/wear on a trip.
This is a great list. I really need to invest in an osprey backpack. I am getting much better at packing than I used to be, but i’m sure I could cut it down more!
Hailey – I can’t vouch for any Osprey backpack, but I really love the ones we had!
Oh nice, you have put together some great tips about packing. That is one good collection of backpacks as well. If you had to pick one favorite brand, which one would it be?
We honestly just used our Osprey backpacks, and are quite happy about them. I can’t comment on any other brands!
So true about the difference in men and women’s clothing esp. for traveling, I feel women have to carry more necessities than men. This is an excellent list!
Yes! And that’s often a struggle 🙂 But can be quite easy if you have the right things. Thank you!
Wow, I am impressed with your packing skills! I love the fact that you mentioned Marie Kondo, she should be our spirit animal when packing for long trips 😉
Also, 100% to packing cubes! These things save my life every time I travel. It’s so easy to compartmentalize items and keep track of everything in your bag/luggage.
Yes, Marie Kondo is great! Even though I think people who follow her should also master a skill of refuse-reduce-reuse-recycle 🙂
Agreed about packing cubes! Love them 🙂
This is such a complete list – really helpful. Since I’ve been travelling from weekend trips to year-long tours, at the end of the day, they don’t differ that much: There are things you need no matter how long you’re gone – and it’s impossible to pack for a year, anyway. My luggage is mostly approximately the same size 😉
Exactly! Maybe for a weekend trip I would pack a bit differently, but whether it’s 2 weeks or a year – as you said, it’s just impossible to pack EVERYTHING you need for a whole year.
I haven’t experienced long trip before, but reading this is something I should consider in the future. It is actually really helpful, and I truly agree that packing light and right is something that every traveler should learn and practice as well. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.
Our pleasure! 🙂 We’re happy to be helpful.