Hitting the road for a year forces you to think about what you really need. We wanted everything to be as lightweight as possible, so we weren’t carrying more than approximately 22 kilos between us, (geddit). However much planning you do, the reality is, you won’t know exactly what’s going to be a help or a hindrance until you’re in the thick of it. We’ve discarded a lot of ‘essentials’ (listed at the bottom) and bought stuff we’d not considered bringing in the first place. After six months of backpacking through Central and South America, here’s our ultimate packing list for long term travel.
Basic Essential Travel Gear:
1. Backpack. Choosing a good rucksack is essential. If the zip bursts as you’re boarding a 4am chicken bus in Guatemala, you’re totally up the creek. Liz uses an Osprey Farpoint 70L and I have a Vango Freedom 60L. Both have been worth their weight in gold and come with an attached 20L day pack. Out of the two, the Osprey is better constructed and weighs slightly less making it the favourite. It’s been chucked about mercilessly on two trips around the world and still shows minimal signs of wear and tear. Click here to view on Amazon
2. Waterproof Jacket. This awesome Columbia Omni jacket packs down tight and weighs next to nothing. Thankfully it’s not something we need to use that often but it’s saved us getting completely drenched several times. Click here to view on Amazon.
3. Hiking Shoes. However much punishment these Merrell walking shoes get on the trails they keep on going. Probably the most durable pair I’ve ever had and super comfortable too. Click Here to View on Amazon
4. Comfy Trainers. For wearing around town trainers are a must . This pair of Air Max Tavas are light as a feather, breathable and being dark don’t look tired for ages. Click here to view on Amazon.
5. Flip Flops. The classic Brazilian Haivanas are versatile enough for the beach and surrounds. We both have a pair that have lasted for months. Click here to view on Amazon.
6. Sleeping Bag Liner. Perfect for putting down when the hostel bed isn’t looking the freshest. Also a lifesaver on night bus journeys as you can slip your day pack inside when you go to sleep for extra security. We love Sea to Summit gear and can’t recommend this Thermolite bag highly enough. Click here to view on Amazon.
7. Head Torch. Useful everywhere, from the dorm room to the jungle. This cheap one from Eveready was under $20 and hasn’t let us down once. Click here to view on Amazon.
8. Toiletries. While Liz carries a small arsenal of potions and powders, I prefer this ultra lightweight bag from Sea To Summit. Inside just the basics. Toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, cream and nail scissors. Click here to view on Amazon.
9. Luggage Locks. We always lock our stuff when we leave the hostel and these little TSA approved combination locks are worth their weight in gold. No need to worry about losing the key when you’re out and about. Click here to view on Amazon.
10. Packing Cubes. Total game changer which we wouldn’t travel without. Pack and unpack your bag in seconds and they make finding anything a breeze. Click here to view on Amazon.
11. Sunglasses. I began the trip with a sweet pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers, but the world conspired and I smashed the lenses within a month. Handilly there’s cheap options available everywhere in the world for less than $5 – just replace as needed.
12. Travel Towel. Back again to Sea to Summit – they make one of the best travel towels on the market. Big enough to dry a fully grown human (me) sufficiently, but small enough to pack away. There’s also a useful loop clip giving you the option to hang it up on almost anything. Click here to view on Amazon.
You need less than you think. Laundry is available cheaply all over the place. We pack layers so we can mix and match without having bulky jumpers/jackets etc.
1. Fleece Hoody. Lightweight and warm, I wear this Patagonia R1 fleece pretty much everyday in the colder countries. Packs down small so easily fits in my daysack. It also has zip up pockets and a hidden internal pocket for extra security. Click here to view on Amazon.
2. Adventure Trousers. I get flack from Liz for these being nerdy, but they’ve proved their worth countless times. Zip off legs mean protection from the elements and a quick switch into shorts when the sun’s out. These Craghopper pants even have mosquito repellent and heaps of pockets with security zips. Click here to view on Amazon.
3. Jeans. Yes they’re heavy and not that practical to pack but I couldn’t travel without a pair. Versatile and durable they can be worn almost anywhere and are much cooler than the adventure trousers…
4. Shorts. I have a pair of these heavy duty Carharrt workers shorts which are a bit bulky but will last a lifetime. Click here to view on Amazon.
5. T-shirts. Two short sleeve and two long sleeve. I wear these everyday so ensure I buy good quality. Long sleeve tees are a good way to save on expensive sun cream in the searing heat. Click here to view on Amazon.
6. Underwear.These Calvin Klein dry wicking boxer shorts are the bomb. I thought I’d model these ones myself. Click here to view on Amazon.
7. Socks. A pair for every day and a spare. I find compression socks the comfiest and great for long hikes. Click here to view on Amazon.
8. Collared shirt. As good for trekking in the jungle as it is in a decent restaurant, this cotton Columbia shirt has proved versatile enough for all occasions. Click here to view on Amazon.
9. Alpaca Jumper. Not an essential, but you can buy these everywhere in South America extremely cheaply. The alpaca wool is soft and cool on your skin. For under $15 it may have been the best on-the-road buy of the trip. Click here to view a ridiculously expensive Alpaca jumper on Amazon.
10. Wide Brim Hat. Save face and protect ya neck. If you’re spending time outdoors then you need one of these or you’ll turn old n wrinkled before your time. This stylish crushable/packable hat is almost identical to the one I picked up from a local market in Ecuador. Click here to view on Amazon.
We tried to keep electronics to a minimum and ended up carrying the following. While they do add a fair bit to the overall weight, we think this is the least we could do with.
Mac Book Air. Perfect for editing photos on the move, designing web pages and watching movies. We could have probably got away with something less flash but it works so well who are we to argue. Click here to view on Amazon.
Hard Drive – We have a 500gb storage unit which does the trick. Although with all the movies and photos we’ve collated could have done with something slightly larger, like this 1T Seagate Hard Drive. Click here to view on Amazon.
Iphone 6. The one thing that never leaves my side. Emails, Camera, Music Player, Translator, Exchange Rate Teller, Newspaper, Language Tutor, Bank, Book, Podcasts, Maps and more. We’ve opted not to get mobile data while travelling as find using free wifi is sufficient. However if your phone is unlocked it’s pretty cheap and easy to buy a SIM in each country. Click here to view on Amazon.
Kindle Paperwhite. On the road there’s plenty of time to catch up on all the books we’ve been meaning to read for ages. The battery lasts forever and the bright screen means you can read wherever you want. Click here to view on Amazon.
Go Pro Hero 5. If you do any kind of adventure travel then a Go Pro is a great companion. We’ve taken ours up volcanoes (then slid down them), scuba diving, sand boarding, dune buggying, rock climbing, paragliding, swimming and loads more. Click here to view on Amazon.
Canon G7X. Lightweight and small enough to fit in your pocket, this is a professional grade camera that packs a serious punch. Features include full scale manual settings meaning you’re able to program and capture incredible shots. Add to that the 4K video ability and you can see why it’s a popular choice for travellers. Click here to view on Amazon.
And What We Didn’t Need…
The following is a list off things we’ve given away during the trip. I’m pretty sure there’s more we can’t remember..
- External Power Bank for phones – There’s plugs everywhere.
- Spanish Phrasebooks – We use Google Translate in offline mode.
- Mosquito Net Hats – Used once in the Jungle for a bad photo op.
- Secret Money Wallet – More hassle than it’s worth, just don’t carry loads of cash.
- Swiss Army Knife – It weighed a ton and I’d used it once in 3 months.
- Half a First Aid Kit – Are we really ever going to need a hygienic resuscitation mouth protector??
- The Rough Guide – Downloaded it on the Kindle and immediately saved 3kg.
So there you have it – our ultimate packing list for long term travel. Please let us know if this has been useful in the comments below. And if there’s anything not listed that you couldn’t travel without, we’d love to hear from you.
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