How to pack for 6+ months of travel..
Probably the most dreaded of all travel activities...packing. We often get asked by travelers and people just how we packed for an entire year off, in just a 50L backpack. (UPDATE: Nov 2018, we swapped our daypack from the 15L to a 34L to allow for the occasional souvenir buying).
Being two gay guys, you can imagine our packing dilemma. It was a difficult task to narrow it down; but at just over 7 months of traveling we can honestly say that we’re quite happy with the list we’ve come up with. We packed and unpacked our bags about 6 times. Packing, purging, packing, purging. We researched countless packing lists, read many reviews, and came up with the following list for any guy (or gal) looking to travel anywhere from 1 month to a few years.
So what’s in our pack? We’ve broken it down for one person below, obviously some things are shared between the two of us. We didn’t need to travel with two waterproof speakers. Below is our complete list with links to Amazon and elsewhere. There is a really good chance that the link might be an affiliate link which is fancy marketing speak to say that we may receive a small commission on your purchase (for which we say a million thanks).
A couple of notes on this packing list:
We had to pack for all types of weather: from the freezing altitude of Salar de Uyuni to ball-sweating humidity of Cartagena. Please adjust your list accordingly if you’re traveling during just one season or climate. Note: if traveling in South America, it’s always best to pack for all climates. Ecuador for instance ranges from hot and humid coast in Guayaquil to cold and dry Quito to the more temperate climate of Cuenca.
The clothing part of this packing list is for directed more towards the fellas (sorry ladies, but check out this awesome sauce packing list from the Budget-minded Traveler)
Be creative, raid your closet—we’re sure that you already have some of these that will work. We started with our existing workout gear and went from there.
Try to get quick drying and antimicrobial for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Seriously, do yourself (and everyone else you meet) a solid. BO is no joke.
Dark colors are great for concealing sweat and dirt stains.
Layering is KEY! If you’re going to be traveling in multiple climates, layering will be your friend.
Leave some room. These things are just to get you started. Depending on your travel, you’ll be able to pick up tanks, t-shirts, or even sweaters while traveling. Eventually, you might even toss one that’s too dirty or gross and pick up another one along the way.
Again, just to be super transparent, if you do click on the links and purchase, we may get a small kickback from the links below that help us maintain this blog, brining you great content, and keeping everyone traveling. That being said, we only put down things we actually use and recommend, not just fluff.
Where to shop?
Shop from your existing closet. Look for what you have and then you can shop for what you don’t currently have. Kaleb is very much of the “wear that into the ground” midwestern mindset.
Amazon - we’re Prime members and are constantly looking for deals on Amazon. Who doesn’t love 2 day shipping in our instant gratification world. (Full disclosure, we are a part of the Amazon Partner program and do receive a small commission for any purchases made from links on the site.)
REI - We LOVE the REI member program. Not only do you get dividends (i.e. money back) on purchases that can help you buy that new Water bottle you’ve been ogling over, but REI also gives back to the community and to conservation efforts.
Ebay - So we definitely comparison shop with Ebay when searching for anything. One of the best reasons, we feel, to use Ebay is because you’re helping reduce, reuse, and recycle items that might go into a landfill otherwise.
Osprey 55L Backpack - We love this pack. It’s actually a 40 L main pack with a 15L additional day pack that can be zipped on/off of the main pack. One thing, if you’re planning on packing up on souvenirs or anything, you might want to opt for a slightly larger separate day pack like we did (Kaleb’s Osprey 34L Stratos, Nic’s 40L Osprey Farpoint). You can also ship things home usually for cheaper than what you can in the US.
Packing Cubes - Seriously, a life changer. Once you go Pack, you’ll never go back (Ba-dum Ching!). We decided two medium cubes and one small cube was perfect for us.
Clear zippered pouches - perfect for meds or liquids so you can get through security (although South America airport security isn’t super militant about liquids).
Toiletry bag - Vertical hanging and has pockets for organization.
Rain cover for your pack - Any basic cover will do, just want all contents of your pack to be wet.
Dry bag - NOTE: they aren’t necessarily completely dry. If you’re swimming (especially in the ocean or salty water), always place your phone and other precious electronics in ziploc bags! Trust, we learned this the hard way and almost had to get a replacement phone, just two weeks into travel.
Compression bag - this will help with stinky laundry.
2 Credit cards - 1 usual and 1 backup (emergency card). Get a non-foreign transaction fee bearing card. We love our Chase Sapphire Reserve card. AND if you sign up, you may get introductory promotional miles that can be used for your trip!
Photocopies of your passport (3 copies should be good. Safer to carry a photocopy instead of your actual passport)
Photocopy of your vaccination record (2 copies, especially if traveling to Bolivia)
Journals! If you’re the journaling type, be sure to bring one or two with you. Nic has been journaling everyday. Kaleb has been using his to sketch.
medium packing cube
3 Tank tops (dry wicking) - whatever brand works best or whatever you have in your closet. Workout clothes are the best, but here are a couple of the brands that we packed.
3 t-shirts (dry fit) - Everyday workout shirts work great.
Try to get one that’s a cotton blend. We don’t know why, but it just feels comfy to wear something “normal”
1 Button down shirt (quick dry + bug repellent) - for any of those nicer functions...Craighopper (a little more fashionable)
1 Polo (dry fit) - Golf shirts are the best for this.
1 Long sleeve or quarter-zip pullover shirt (dry fit)
medium packing cube
1 Lightweight travel Jeans - we LOVE our Prana jeans. Seriously, we’re never going back to regular jeans again.
1 pair hiking pants (optional: trekking/camping) - A must if you’re doing trekking. Here’s a good brand, you can also get the zip off kind, to double duty and save space. But we already had a pair from Iceland of the straight pants, so we just used those.
1 pair trail runners - Instead of packing a hiking boot and a separate pair of running shoes (we both run); REI suggested a midrange trail runner. They’ve been perfect...we can wear them running, hiking, and out and about on the town. Here are both Nic’s (high arches) and Kaleb’s (flat feet).
1 pair sandals - Nic uses basic flip flops. Kaleb has flat feet and needs more support—He’s getting old. He uses these Tevas. They’re great for rest days and gross showers.
1 “Base layer” thermal long sleeve shirt (optional: cold weather) - This is essential if you’re doing any trekking, camping, or frankly going anyplace cold.
3 pairs underwear dry fit - you can wash them in the sink and dry in no time
5 pairs of socks
1 Puffy jacket - all weather puffy is good. You can always layer the fleece under for added warmth. Plus, these usually pack into one of it’s pockets. It doubles perfect as a travel pillow. We already had a Mountain Hardwear’s Ghost Whisperer for Kaleb and Mountain Hardwear’s Stretchdown Hooded jacket for Nic.
1 rain jacket - if you have an all weather that includes a shell and a waterproof outer, great. Otherwise, it’s a must...cause nothing really sucks like rain and being cold.
1 pair of gloves - these are great and are touchscreen friendly
1 buff - this little piece of fabric that goes around your neck (or headband) is amazing. You can get these in the markets; however, they often are much more expensive than at home.
1 Security Belt - place to conveniently hide your cash, plus now you have a belt. Not the most stylish, but it works.
1 beanie - you can buy this at home if you want, but you can find these really cheap in South America ($5 for a nice one)
1 baseball cap - we loved these, but you can also pick these up in any market
1 pair sunglasses - if you’re like us and lose sunglasses all the time, bring a cheap pair and then buy some in market when you need to.
Glasses (for all our fellow four-eyes)
Health & Hygiene
Water purification options:
LifeStraw water bottle - We’ve used this a bunch and will save you a ton of money when traveling. Plus, if you purchase one, they give water to those in need.
Steripen (optional: camping & cooking)- if you’re cooking or camping, this is a must. It’s ultra violet and will kill most things in the water.
Boiling coil (optional: camping & cooking) - boils water pretty rapidly if you’re the type that wants to cook more.
Sunscreen - best to get from home. It can be super expensive in market. For instance, we ran out and had to pay $18 (USD) while in the Galapagos. :-/
Travel Toilet Paper - you’ll be glad when you’ve got to go.
Rehydration Salts - lifesaver in high altitude or after a night of heavy drinking ;-)
Bug repellent - You can buy this one from home that has a high percentage of DEET; but honestly, you can get it while you’re down here. Just ask a local what they recommend.
First Aid kit - basic travel items. Either pack from home or you can purchase ahead of time, but good to have.
Travel size bottle of hand sanitizer or Purel wipes. Have you seen how dirty planes are?!
Clippers & tweezers
Read our article on staying healthy while traveling.
Along with your basic must-haves (toothpaste, floss, etc.), here are a few items that have been awesome.
Toothbrush - Kaleb loves this battery one that lasts for 30 days!
Battery operated shaver. Nic bought this handy dandy battery operated shaver which has been awesome. Be careful of plug in shavers, depending on the voltage of the country you might end up frying your shaver.
Solid Cologne - They last a super long time and also travel super well since they’re not liquid. You can also pop into a perfumery or a custom cologne place while traveling!
Bluetooth & water proof speaker (optional) - We love listening to music. So this has been awesome to make your hotel room feel a little more like home.
iPad (basic for everything) - We added this keyboard and it’s very useful.
Mac PowerBook Pro - Optional: Most of what we do can be done on the iPad, but it is necessary if you plan to do work along the way or if you’re going to be blogging.
Kindle Paperwhite for reading at night and on those long bus rides.
Bonus: you can also check out books from your Library by using the Libby (Overdrive) app for FREE! Support your local library!
Portable battery charger - You’d be surprised when you end up without power. Not just for trekking, it also comes in handing on long bus or plane journeys.
Universal Power Adapter/Converter - get one with USB ports!
Multi-USB outlet - This has been amazing. Especially since Colombia & Ecuador also use US standard 110 volt. Plus, it can plug into your adapter and you can charge almost everything at one time.
Extra long USB charging cords for phones and other devices. Anker brand has been awesome.
Fitness tracker - Nic uses his Apple Watch, Kaleb has a Garmin GPS tracker. It’s fun for tracking treks, altitude and everyday walking. We walked over 40,000 steps one day!
2 pairs of headphones (at least one needs a headphones jack!) - Although Google and Apple would have you move to Bluetooth, airplanes and buses still have the jack. If you want to watch a movie, bring wired headphones. In case you’re curious here are our bluetooth headsets that have been pretty awesome:
Unlocked Smartphone - Nic has the iPhone X and Kaleb a Google Pixel 2XL. Whatever your smartphone, make sure that it’s unlocked so that you can buy SIM cards (for super cheap) and get the best coverage for each area. Also, check out Google Fi’s wireless network for SIMless travel abroad.
SLR or Mirrorless Camera + accessories- If you’re a super photography buff, be sure to pack your camera. After researching, we fell in love with the Panasonic G9 mirrorless camera.
Drone + accessories - We’re newbies in the drone space. But Kaleb finally bit the bullet and purchased the DJI Mavic Air fly more combo.
Go Pro or Action Camera of your choice + accessories - This is great for underwater fun. We loved having ours in the Galapagos.
Selfie stick - it has a Bluetooth remote and a tripod. Be responsible though! Selfie-sticks have been prohibited in certain main attractions (i.e. Machu Picchu). Don’t be a D.
WiFi External Hard Drive - If you’re going to be taking lots of photos and videos, go ahead an invest in one of these. Just think if you lost that video of you swimming with sea turtles!
Travel Quick Drying Towel (optional: trekking, camping)
Headlamp - A must for trekkers, but also for navigating hostels at night.
Ziploc bags - bring some for the occasional thing you might pick up that needs it. They’re light and easy to pack.
Laundry dryer sheets - Magical things! Great for stuffing in your bag to reduce the stench of dirty laundry, you can also rub them on your skin as an insect repellent, and they help with static electricity.
So that’s it. That’s what’s in our packs. Anything we missed? Please let us know in the comments below.