There are many travel blogs with informative posts about packing for long periods of travel (for one year or more). Many of the blog posts convey a hard-earned wisdom however the authors often fail to mention that they are getting paid to promote the products and destinations that they are describing. So always read travel blogs critically and I am not going to mention any product names here.
This is what I have decided to take on my one-year journey in 2015 (and I do hope it helps in your travel planning as it has with mine). There are a few basic things I have left off this list because I hardly know you and don’t want you to know everything!
All this weighs about 10KGS. If you wear some of it, you can probably get it down to 7kgs, which is the cabin allowance for most airlines.
Take a small, good-quality backpack (and I mean small, imagine what you will need and then half it). I have always traveled light, with packs of about 35 litres. If your pack is 40 litres or less, it means that it doesn’t have to be checked in at airports, and it is easy to take on packed buses and trains, etc. If you plan to travel day-to-day over lots of distance, you will appreciate a small, good quality pack. I bought a locally made Australian travel-pack that opens like a suitcase and will fit everything I need for a year. Also, if you need a day-pack just buy a small fold-up one that you can stuff in your backpack. And, packing cubes are a good idea to organise your clothes.
- 1, 40 Litre backpack (travel pack)
- 1 fold-up day pack
- 2 packing cubes
- A cable lock to lock your bag to posts when you are on trains or buses (ie. when you go for a piss).
- A small lock for the zipper (if you think this is necessary)
The footwear you take largely depends on what you are planning to do on your travels. I am planning to do a lot of hiking, so I bought some reasonably presentable, low-rise leather hiking shoes. Hiking shoes (and trainers and runners etc.) are as ugly as hell, so look for ones that won’t make you appear like an Aussie Bogan. If you have presentable shoes, you will be able to wear them in clubs and restaurants, etc. And if you aren’t planning on doing a lot of hiking, just take some good quality walking shoes (and leave the smelly runners at home)! Also, take a pair of quality sandals. If the climate is hot where you are going, your will probably be wearing sandals most of the time. So two pairs of shoes maximum: a pair of sandals and a pair of leather walking or hiking boots. Also, two pairs of bamboo hiking socks should do the trick (or lightweight merino). And buy socks along the way when you need to.
- 1 Sandals
- 1 low-rise leather hiking boots (or walking boots)
- 2 pairs bamboo hiking socks
Clothes: Top layer (warn feather down jacket + rain jacket)
Again, this depends on where you are going. I am planning to go trekking in both the Himalayas and Patagonia and will be visiting Europe in April, so it is important to have a good warm jacket as well as a waterproof rain jacket. Regarding warmth, a light-weight down puffer jacket will do the trick (at around 500 grams). Again these things are pretty damn ugly and make you look like a bouncer at a shite night-club, but there are a few brands around that are slightly presentable (so are also versatile). The great advantage of these jackets is that they are super warm, and they come with a stuff-sack that takes up little room in your pack (but please buy a black one without a shite sports logo on the front). And remember, puffer jackets aren’t waterproof so you will need a good waterproof jacket as well (this is a must as it rains and you will otherwise get cold and wet).
- 1 down puffer jacket
- 1 waterproof lightweight rain jacket (buy a good one, don’t skimp here, and they only weigh about 400 grams).
Clothes: Mid-layer (jumper)
Quality travel clothes tend to be very expensive, often for no apparent reason. There are lots of ugly fleeces around in all sorts of hideous colours, made out of bizarre plastic materials, that can cost anything up to $300. It may be better to buy a good quality jumper from a fashion store than getting ‘fleeced’ at a travel store (but admittedly some fleeces are OK, and again buy a black or dark coloured one without sports branding and one that doesn’t weigh much).
- 1 warm jumper or fleece (zip up is good)
Clothes: Base layer (shirts)
The shirts you take aren’t as important as the other stuff you take, as you can always buy good quality shirts while you are on the road. A couple of everyday shirts and a couple of dress shirts should be enough for the majority of social situations. linen shirts are great in hot climates, and Merino tee shirts are suitable for trekking in cooler climates. You can always buy cheaper tee shirts on the way.
- 2 linen dress/casual shirts
- 1 Marino tee shirt
- 1 synthetic base-layer
Clothes: (shorts and trousers)
You will need at least two pairs of trousers and two pairs of shorts for an extended, independent journey. Don’t take jeans as they are too heavy and please, no ugly cotton tan cargo shorts! Walking and hiking trousers and shorts are perfect. They are light, robust, don’t wrinkle, and have ‘secret’ pockets. They aren’t particular warn, but you can always take a pair of lightweight Marino long-johns for hiking.
- 2 pairs of travel pants
- 2 pairs of lightweight travel shorts
- 1 pair Marino long-johns
There are a whole bunch of technology options for the 21st Century independent traveler. But this needs to be considered in a discerning and ‘minimalist’ way. The context of your travels is the World and the people in it, and only a fool would spend all their time staring at a 6-inch mobile screen while they are traveling (like they do at home). Still, there are some practical advantages of packing some good tech. Don’t take a lap-top as they are heavy, unnecessary, distracting and (hopefully) they will get stolen. Most things you need to do while traveling can be done with a smartphone or tablet (booking hotels, flights, email, etc.). And regarding reading, don’t take printed books (or read your eBooks on your back-lit tablet), but take an eBook reader (some have free 3G that works pretty much anywhere in the world, and they don’t need to be charged for up to 6 weeks). This is what I recommend.
- A 8 inch tablet with Wi Fi (you won’t need a 3G/4G Connection as you can pair it with a smartphone…maybe someone elses!)
- A stylus pen (that doubles as a real pen)
- A Bluetooth keyboard (in its own case that can hold the tablet as well)
- A 64 Gigabyte duo flash-drive (‘duo’ means it can plug into the tablet as well as a normal computer). Pack some movies on it for those long bus or plane rides.
- A smartphone (this is optional if you take the tablet ; a cheap phone will do)
- A universal power plug adapter (very important)
- 1 plug and cord that will charge the phone, the tablet, and the eBook reader
- 1 eBook reader (in a case)
- 1 pair of headphones (some have a microphone built in that may be good for Skype calls)
- Travel Business cards (with your blog address and contact details for the wonderful people you meet along the way).
- 1 very small torch
- 1 medium size lock for hotel doors or lockers
- 1 SteriPen UV water purifier and drinking flask (yes, you will need to drink water!)
A lot of minimalist travelers don’t take cameras. I think it is a big mistake not to take a camera as you will regret it one day (I have photos from all the countries visited). If you take a smart-phone, you can always take photos using that I suppose (pretty crap ones), but please don’t ever take photos with your tablet (this should be illegal). I will take a mid-range DSLR with two versatile lenses, a micro-tripod, and a subtle camera bag (don’t take a regular camera bag as they are bulky, ugly and scream tourist!)
- 1 mid-range DLSR Camera
- 1, 18-55mm lens
- 1, 55-250mm lens
- 1 itsy bitsy tripod
- A 32 Gigabyte micro SD drive (with an adapter so it can be used as a normal SD drive). This is how I get photos off a camera to the tablet).
Getting the software right is something a 21st Century independent traveler must now do. Including installing apps on your tablet for music, blogging, books, and hotel reservations. I plan to blog weekly on my travels. I definitely won’t be using social software as I want to get away from that world to I explore richer ones. This is what I suggest regarding necessary software and apps (if you aren’t blogging you could probably just use a phone rather than take a table).
- Create a blog on a blogging platform like WordPress (I have been blogging for more than ten years now). Make sure that there are ways that people can subscribe to your blog (via email etc.).
- Download the WordPress app so that you can write blog posts off-line.
- Connect your blog to your social feeds so that when you post something, it is automatically fed into your networks.
- Download an app for booking hotels
- You will need an email app (but create a new email address if your old one gets lots of distracting crap).
- Also, subscription to services such as Scribd means that you will have access to travel books, such as the entire Lonely Planet catalogue, for a small monthly fee on one app. Books can be downloaded and read offline. I am not sure that this is a complete replacement for a printed travel book, but I am willing to give it a shot.
- Spotify (or similar). Subscribe to this so that you can store the tracks on your device and listen to them offline when you are on long bus journeys.
- You will need a VOIP (Skype) app for making phone calls. There are lots of options here, but you could put some money in your account (for calling mobile and landlines) and purchase a phone number (for $60 per year). Then your friends and family can call you directly on this number (from any phone), and if you don’t answer (highly likely), you will receive an email notification. Then you can call them back at your convenience. There is no easy solution to traveling with a phone cheaply, and I would recommend leaving your SIM at home. Buy a local SIM if you need to but VOIP (Skype) and the occasional email should be fine for most long-term independent traveling.
- SKYPE Wi-Fi app. With this app, you can log into many public WI-Fi hotspots at airports, etc. (for a fee).
- Currency exchange app (these work offline too)
- Banking app (you can figure this out)
- Travel Card app (travel debit-cards have become increasingly popular, and they can store 10 or so currencies). You will need this app to manage your card.
- Note taking software (for writing). I am going to use Microsoft OneNote and Google Docs
- Install Cloud Drives (such as Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive). When you manage to find a place with a decent internet collection, drop your photos and other important files into your cloud drives (do this regularly). Have backup copies of your insurance contacts, passport, vaccination, travel documents, and other important documents in there as well.
- A app for booking flights (I use Skyscanner as it is simply a search engine as opposed to a travel agent)
- And you will love this. This app from Melbourne allows you to explore how to get from place to place by any means of transport (Rio2Rome). It is good for working out routes, costs, and modes of transport.
- Also, here is a list of Android apps worth considering..
Toiletries, health, first aid.
I won’t say too much about toiletries; you can figure this out for yourself, and you can buy this stuff when you get to your destination (but a toilet bag that you can hang in the shower is useful). Also, consider a micro-fibre towel that is light weight and drys quickly (but do feel like crap). And take a basic first-aid kit with bandages and a few common tablets, but this does depends on where you are traveling to (you may need to take an operating table).