In all my time of going back and forth to college and law school and traveling various places, I have been the person that ignored all of those “packing tips” lists. The internet is filled with packing tips for various needs: short-term travel, long-term travel, overnights, full-time travel, camping, backpacking. While that’s all well and good, packing sucks and I hate it. And therefore, I always avoided it and did it as inefficiently as possible. (I know, it makes so much sense.)
Even as a kid, whenever I needed to pack up and go somewhere, I would drag my feet until the last possible moment. To me, packing was an endless cycle of picking the things you wanted, trying to get them to fit, realizing they wouldn’t fit, needing to pare down, and starting the process over. I wasn’t exactly what you would call a “light packer.”
Luckily, I’ve learned something from those days, not the least of which is the following: let people who know more than you help you! Some of my favorite bloggers on this topic include The Professional Hobo and the Vagabrothers, and I have been voraciously scouring the internet for further tips from full-time travelers who have done this (a lot) before.
I’ve finally completed my packing list and packed everything in my Deuter Futura Vario 50 + 10 – just to test it out before I hit the road – and along the way, I realized a few of my own tips that I think could be helpful for long-term travelers. I wanted to get away from the annoying, inefficient cycle of packing I was in (without losing my mind), so if I can help you do that too, I’d love to!
1. Make lists.
Notice I didn’t say “make A list,” like one, singular, ride-or-die list. Nope – make a BUNCH of lists. I had a “To Pack” list, as well as a “To Buy,” list, as well as a “Maybe” list, among others. The initial list of things “To Pack” is immensely important just so you don’t forget anything. Barring that, however, you aren’t going to have everything you need (hence the “To Buy”) list and you are likely not even going to know what you really need until you get into actually packing process (hence the “Maybe” list). The key is to not try to keep all of this in your head – because you will be thinking about and dealing with a lot in the days preceding your travels – so the more organized you can be, the better!
2. Choose multi-use clothing options.
I will be training for two marathons in the months right after beginning my journey, so I am in the unique situation of needing to pack a bunch of running gear along with my regular, every day clothes. In order to deal with this and not create a load of extra laundry and wasted space, I decided just to use my “running” shirts as my “every day” shirts and follow a cycle where I throw on a running shirt with jeans, sleep in it (because tech shirts are cool and sweat wicking) and wake up early the next day and run in it, then toss it in the laundry. Repeat for six days until I need to wash my clothes. I ended up with two pairs of jeans, one pair of capris, six pairs of running bottoms (a mix of shorts and tights) and ten tops, eight of which are running tops. Although you may not be training for a marathon during your long-term travels, you do want to choose clothes that will be comfortable in a variety of situations.
3. Embrace the roll.
Not the pastry roll (although that sounds delicious, as well) – the clothing roll. Turns out, rolling your clothing up instead of folding it can maximize space utilization in your travel bag. And if you’re packing for long-term travel, you need all the extra space you can get! Rolling also helps clothes stay wrinkle-free (I know, I hate ironing, too) so it’s a good idea to get your rolling skills down pat.
4. Use products that are designed to help.
Hello, packing cubes, did I mention I love you? Packing cubes are this amazing, miracle of a product that help make your life easier by creating unique spaces for your things within your bag. I am using one large packing cube for my clothes, a slightly smaller packing cube for my shoes, and a slightly smaller one than that for medications for my dog. I am already obsessed with them, because they mean not having to unpack everything when you are looking for something specific. Packing cubes, along with other travel specific products like travel safes and passport wallets, were designed specifically to make your travel life so much easier. Use them!
5. Don’t take everything you think you might need, ever.
While this may sound counter-intuitive, it’s not the best idea to pack with the “well I might need this when…” thought. Instead, make do with what you have, create something out of what you have to fulfill your needs, or go without! If you try to pack to be perfectly prepared for every single situation, you would be carrying hundreds of pounds arounds – so better to go with the basic essentials that you will need on a day-to-day basis and figure out the rest as you go.
Packing for long-term travel can be a headache – or it can be really, really fun. Once I finally decided to start taking the advice of people that are much wiser than I am, and have much more experience, I really enjoyed the packing process!
Image By: Highways Agency