Have you ever stared at your luggage and felt completely overwhelmed because you have no clue what to pack? Before leaving, on what so far has been a 6-month journey, I was the girl that always over packed. The girl all my friends would laugh at when I turned up with 4 bags for a weekend trip.
So when it came time to prepare for our travels, I had no clue how to even start packing for such a long term travel adventure. Naturally, I turned to the blog world to read about other people's packing advice. Surprisingly there's not nearly as much content on the subject as I would have guessed. Which is why I decided to make this one of my first posts.
Over the course of our trip, I had to learn how to manage my compulsive need to possess every single item on hand from the store "just in case". So I've put together a short guide of how and what to pack in hopes of helping all you over packers like me.
BASIC GUIDELINES FOR LONGTERM PACKING
1. CHOOSE BACKPACK
Purchasing a backpack over a suitcase is more beneficial for long term travelers. If you're traveling long term, a backpack is the way to go. Although I met several ladies (mostly in Australia) that were backpacking with large rolling suitcases- I personally wouldn't recommend it.
It will end up being more of a hassle than anything else. There may be certain roads you have to walk on or modes of transport that make rolling a bag difficult. Although some would argue that this will depend on where you're traveling, in my opinion it's still a much smarter option. I mean it's called backpacking for a reason.
2. CHOOSING THE RIGHT BACKPACK
Finding the right backpack for you is essential. When Buying a pack I would suggest looking for one that has multiple openings. It's so easy to fall into the unpacking and repacking routine at every new destination if you don't have full visibility into your pack. This is especially frustrating if you're only in certain places overnight or a couple of days. So be sure to look at all the options before making a final decision.
Aside from multiple entrances to your pack, make sure to be mindful of where those zippers are placed. Before I went to get my own backpack, Justin recommended I get a bag with multiple zips. This lone piece of advice was super helpful as I don't think I would have thought of it otherwise. That being said, at the time I didn't think about the placement of the zips, which resulted in still having to unpack every time.
Full visibility into your bag is hard to achieve with a backpack but finding a pack that opens in the front of your bag gives much more visibility. Justin has this style of pack and it worked wonders for him.
3. MAXIMIZE YOUR SPACE
Maximizing space in your backpack is key. One way to achieve this is by rolling your clothes. This will create room for additional items you may need or for souvenirs you buy along the way!
If you're worried about items getting to crinkled- you may have to overcome that fear as most items will get wrinkled in a backpack whichever way you pack it and this really is the most efficient method I've found.
Tip- If you have a compression bag, put your nicer items in that and at the top of your bag.
4. MINIMIZE YOUR LOAD
The key when you're traveling anywhere is to avoid overpacking. This is especially true for long term travelers, as you have to hold all that weight on your back. It's simple the more you bring, the more you carry. The best method to prevent overpacking is to create two plies: Essential and Luxury.
Creating an essential and non-essential pile is a great way to assess how much space you have and what you need to bring versus luxury items you can live without.
Once all the essential items are in your pack, evaluate how much space you have.
Rule of thumb- try to eliminate at least half of your non-essentials regardless of space. (If you have extra space at the end you can add items back, however, be mindful of items you may want to purchase along the way).
5. SMARTLY PLACE YOUR ITEMS
The best rule of thumb while packing is to always pack according to weight. When going on a trekking excursion you are always advised to pack according to weight by placing light gear up top (D), medium range supplies at the bottom (A), with your heaviest gear stored in the middle of your pack (B). While any additional super lightweight gear can be placed in the front pouches (C). I would suggest following this same protocol while traveling. Whilst you may only need to carry your pack got a few minutes at a time, the distribution of weight makes such a difference, even in those short intervals. Below is a diagram to help you visualize this concept
6. TARGET TRAVEL
Analyse where you are going on your travels. This will help you decide what type of clothing and other miscellaneous items you'll need for the trip. If your adventures take you through different climates, remember you can always purchase things en route.
7. AVOID PACKING VALUABLE ITEMS
For all the fashionistas, like me out there: pack items that are easy to throw if you have to. I like to look cute and stylish as much as the next girl but packing your best or favourite outfits is not the solution. More often than not, you will end up buying items along the way and may need to eliminate other items. This is easier to do when everything isn't so valuable or important to you. To put it into perspective - almost everything I took was purchased at goodwill or super old. Thrift shops are amazing while travelling unless you're in Asia - then everything is super cheap!
Have you travelled for an extended period of time before? What are your packing tips? Hopefully these tips help you to pack for your backpacking adventure! Good luck and happy packing fellow travelers!