How to pack for a long trip? I’m sure many of you had that question at one point in time. Whether you already went on a long trip and weren’t sure what to bring, or if you’re planning a long vacation and are wondering what you should pack to have all you need while not bringing too much, I’m sure you asked yourself that question.
When you’re leaving for a week in Mexico, you pack seven days worth of t-shirts, shorts, underwear, a few bathing suits, shoes, sandals, and some casual clothes for the evenings.
When you’re leaving for a cruise, you pack all of the above, plus some formal wear.
But how do you pack for a long trip?
Let’s assume for this post that you decided to bring a backpack, and not a suitcase. I will talk about the choice between a backpack and a suitcase in a later post.
Here are my tips:
Don’t bring a bigger backpack than what you really need.
More space will inevitably lead to more stuff inside you bag. Stuff that you probably will not need anyways.
Put everything you want to bring on your bed. Then remove half of it.
Seriously. At first, we think that we will need a lot of things. But get everything out, forget about it for a few hours or a day, and then have another look at what you put on your bed. I know for a fact that we always tend to bring too much. When I left for three months in Asia, I initially brought two pairs of jeans. Two pairs, for three months. Reasonable, right?
Wrong. After only a month, I realized that I was only wearing my jeans when flying between cities. So I shipped a pair back home (along with other things we didn’t need).
Assume that you will do laundry every week, or even more frequently.
Bring a small bottle of all-purpose soap. I like the Sierra Dawn Campsuds, available at MEC in Canada. When you don’t have access to a laundromat, use that soap to wash the clothes that you had on during the day and hang them to dry overnight and during the day after. Do this every day and you will never run out of clean clothes. It’s always nice once in a while though to make a real laundry.
And if you do run out of clean clothes, didn’t I hear somewhere that a pair of underwear can be worn 4 different times? 😉
With that in mind, 5 days worth of clothing should be enough. Some will tell you less. Some more. I tend to think that 5 days worth is good.
If people notice that you always wear the same shirts while looking at your pictures afterwards, well, good for them!
Bring clothes that dry easily
There’s nothing worse than washing something, only to have to put it away still humid in a plastic bag the following day because it didn’t have enough time to dry. It’ll start smelling and you will have washed it for nothing.
So bring clothes that dry quickly. If you’re going to a warm place, don’t bring fabric heavy t-shirts. Bring your lighter ones. They will dry quickly and you will be more comfortable during hot temperatures.
So to wrap up about the clothes, don’t bring too much, 5 days worth is enough, and do laundry regularly. If you’re going somewhere warm, don’t bring too much warm clothes. One pair of pants, one sweater, one jacket, and you should be good. You should bring clothes than are comfortable, that you like wearing, and that dry quickly.
Prepare for the activities you want to do
If you plan to go mountain climbing, it might be wise to bring gloves, a hat and a warmer jacket. Even if it’s bathing suit temperature at sea level. On top of Mount Batur, in Bali, I was glad I had my winter gloves with me!
Bring flip-flops. They’re always useful. And then bring a pair of all around shoes. Find some comfortable shoes that are good for all day walking, yet offer good support if you decide to do some trekking. Oh and if they can be worn for casual nights out, bonus points!
Seriously though, I usually bring a pair of flip-flops, a pair of casual shoes like those ones (no laces, faster for airport security) and some sturdier shoes for treks. I’m not into hiking boots.
Bring a fast drying towel
It’s so useful. Even if your accommodation provide you with one, it’s good to have your own. I like the Packtowl Ultralite Towel available at MEC in Canada. For the beach. It’s light, doesn’t take much space, dries fast, can act as a blanket, a pillow, a beach mattress, a hair dryer if you get soaked in a sudden tropical rainfall…
Bring plastic bags or packing cubes
It really helps to keep your things organized in your bag. One way to do that is with plastic bags or packing cubes. One for the dirty laundry, one for the underwear, one for the t-shirts, etc. Color code your cubes. You will thank me when comes the time to find a clean pair of underwear at night in a hostel room with 20 other people sleeping.
Bring a flashlight
I cannot count the number of times my flashlight has been useful to me while travelling. To find a pair of clean underwear at night in a hostel room with 20 other people sleeping (didn’t I say that already?!), to se where I was stepping while climbing up Mount Batur in Bali, to see at the bottom of my backpack, to look under a bed and make sure I didn’t forget anything. It’s not big and can be really useful. And keep it handy.
Don’t stock up with too much personal care products
Of course, bring a bar of soap, a small bottle of shampoo, some toothpaste, deodorant, a little bottle of hand lotion and some sunscreen. But most of these last for a while, so you don’t need big bottles of everything. And they are easily available everywhere. At least everywhere I’ve been to. Do a little research before if you want. And if you’re staying in hotels, chances are they will provide you will some of this stuff.
As for perfume and hair gel and conditioner and, and… Do you really need everything? Liquids and creams are really heavy. If you need all that, fill out smaller bottles before leaving home instead of bringing a larger bottle only to use a small amount during all your trip.
Trust me, the lighter you backpack is, the
more you will enjoy less you will hate hauling it around.
Don’t bring more than what you really need. I know it’s easier said than done, but even now, knowing all that, I still come back after a vacation realize that I brought too much. Don’t bring something just because you might be in the mood to wear that particular piece of clothing one day. Bring it because it is practical and because you like wearing it. If you rarely use something at home, chances are you won’t use it on vacation either.
In the end, you will be much more appreciative of having a lighter backpack than having access to all your wardrobe.
How about you? How do you pack for a long trip? Let me know about your tips and tricks in the comments below!