Planning Solo Travel

The Ultimate List of Everything You Need to Backpack for a Year

A GUIDE TO EVERYTHING NEEDED TO BACKPACK THE WORLD

When I first set out on the backpacking trip I’m on, I envisioned it’d last a few weeks, maybe months. 

In no version of what I’d dreamt up did I expect the businesses I launched to do so well that I’d be able to sustain my travels for over a year. In fact, things are going so well, I could continue living the nomad life into 2021 and beyond if I wanted to- but, I’ve decided to relocate to Europe to chase a few other dreams. 

Back to what to pack for backpacking-

Three months into my trip, I shared every single thing I packed to backpack SE Asia

At the time, Southeast Asia was the main part of the world on my agenda. 

In the end, I’d also visit Australia and New Zealand, both in winter, as well as India, Sri Lanka and a few European countries in the lead up to Christmas (Turkey, Greece, The Netherlands and England). 

Over the holidays, I spent two and a half weeks at home, and then resumed my travels with a pared down load.

Destinations on this leg of the trip: Seattle in peak winter, and then south to Mexico City, Guatemala, Colombia and Orlando. 

My final destination? 

New York City for a long weekend with friends in, you guessed it, the middle of winter. 

When I packed for the first (and longest) leg of my adventure, cramming what I thought I’d need for SE Asia into a 55L bag felt daunting. 

After many months on the road through, I learned just how little I actually needed. Which, is why, my second time heading out, I only took a 40L bag. 

Winding down this year of travel, and coming up on an international move to Europe for a new job opportunity, it seems like the perfect time to update the list of everything needed to backpack the world I created nine months ago. 

How’d I create this version of the ultimate backpacking list?

It’s based on what I’ve used the most, and what I’ve learned is essential for travel throughout several continents and seasons. 

Happy traveling xx

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The Ultimate List of Everything Needed To Backpack the World

CLOTHES

First things first, layering is critical. 

At times in Oz and New Zealand, the weather was windy, wet and in some areas, snowy. 

There, I picked up a thick sweatshirt and sweatpants for an extra layer over what I already had (from an inexpensive store, Target). At the end of my trip, when I was ready to head back to Indo, I donated both. 

My second biggest tip? 

Bring things that mix and match vs. set outfits.
 Just about everything I own is black for a few reasons- 

1) It’s chic
2) It makes getting dressed effortless
3) No need to ever worry about color bleeding in laundry 

Here’s what I’ve worn the most and would continue to backpack with if I were still traveling full-time- 

  • 2x long leggings (both can be worn to workout, but I usually reserve one pair for travel/cafe working)
  • Cosy hoodie/jacket (choose one that’s soft and warm- great for flights/ferries/places with strong air-con, or cold days)
  • Ultralight foldable vest and jack (mine are from Uniqlo, and have been lifesavers in cold weather- plus they squish down to nothing)
  • Sweater (mine is three-quarters length, good for layering or wearing on its own in cool temps)
  • Long-sleeve tech t-shirt (mine is from a race I ran, I wear it for lounging, sometimes to workout, and love having it for layering)
  • Long-sleeve chambray shirt
  • Pyjama set
  • Maxi dress (doubles as a swim cover-up)
  • Knit midi trousers
  • Long knit trousers (lightweight is key)
  • Jumpsuit (great for cool weather, and insanely comfy on travel days)
  • 2x basic t-shirts
  • 2x tank tops (both serve as workout wear or casual clothing)
  • Swimsuit
  • Lightweight scarf (necessary for air-con, cafes, temples)
  • 4x pairs of socks
  • 1x pair of wool socks
  • 2x low impact sports bras
  • High impact sports bra
  • Enough underwear to last 8-10 days
  • Beanie hat (perf for cold weather)
  • Cotton gloves

With this list, I do laundry usually 2x weekly, wearing things twice before I wash them. Laundry frequency depends on what I’m doing and what the weather is.

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SHOES

Yes, three pairs is really all you need. 

  • Birkenstocks: Heaven. So comfortable. These are the shoes I wear the most, sometimes even with socks, because #backpackerlife
  • Black trainers: Practical for times when I’m walking a lot, driving a scooter or working out
  • Aussianas: There are flip flops, and then there are flip flops. These are so comfortable (hello, arch support). Awesome for casual days, walking short distances and beach hangs

TECH

  • MacBook Air & extra long charger
  • Kindle
  • Unlocked iPhone XR (the unlocked bit is key to be able to grab SIMs on the cheap in new countries)
  • Moment macro and wide-angle lenses (so great for helping me capture a variety of shots)
  • AirPods
  • FitBit
  • 2x universal chargers
  • Four slot USB charger (key for charging multiple things at once)
  • Assorted USB cables & BagSmart organiser
  • TEP wireless hotspot (back-up for work emergencies)

MONEY (AND OTHER ESSENTIAL BITS)

No, not the amount needed to backpack- that’ll differ pending your travel style, how long you’re traveling for, if you’re working while adventuring, and where you want to go.

However, regardless of the kind of trip you head out on, you should bring-

  • 2x wallets (I keep one on me, and another in my accom with a back-up card and cash in case of emergency)
  • Debit card
  • 2-3x digital bank cards (trust me, you’ll encounter card skimming or lose one at some point, and having multiples means you don’t have to worry about cash flow or replacements straight away)
  • 1-2x credit cards (for emergencies, car rentals, etc.)
  • Travel insurance (mine is through SafetyWing)
  • Student ID (I haven’t been a student in 8 years, but still carry mine and occasionally bust it out for discounts ;))
  • Passport
  • Driver’s License
  • International Driver’s License
  • Copies of all IDs and cards you bring
    • I have a paper copy of mine I keep in a waterproof envelope that’s always locked in my bag, and a digital copy stored on the cloud

BEAUTY 

  • Shampoo bar
  • Conditioner bar
  • Solid, natural deodorant (my favourite deodorant in the world is made in Bali, but I also like Native’s Eucalyptus & Mint)
  • Hair oil (trust me, it will dry out)
  • Toothpaste/tooth tablets
  • Toothbrush
  • Dental floss
  • Face wash
  • Exfoliating scrub
  • Facial moisturiser (night and day)
  • Peel-off face mask
  • 1-2 sheet masks for ultra hydration (skin saver post-flying)
  • Tea tree oil
  • Contact solution
  • Body lotion
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Reef-safe SPF for body and face (fan of SunBum)
  • Mosquito repellent
  • 1x pack of face wipes (yes, I know they’re terrible for the planet- I use them sparingly, and backpacking, you never know when you’ll be without a shower)

If I’m staying somewhere for longer than a week or two, I usually pick-up full size items of things I use the most frequently to save money and help reduce my single-use plastic consumption frequency. 

MISC PERSONAL CARE ITEMS

  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Eco-friendly q-tips
  • Razor and blades
  • Glasses
  • Extra sets of contacts (I wear monthlies, and brought enough with me to have spares)
  • Sunglasses
  • Menstrual cup
  • 3x ear plugs
  • Eye mask
  • 1L reusable water bottle
  • Small Keep cup
  • 1x metal straw
  • Small sewing kit
  • First aid basics
  • Essential medicine (EPI pen, Benedryl, allergy meds, Nyquil/Dayquil/ decongestants, ibuprofen, cough drops, gastro tabs- it’s rare I use any of this, but finding US/UK equivalents across parts of the world is tough)
  • Water-purification system (big fan of LifeStraw)
  • Notebook & pen
  • Deck of cards
  • 2x locks for my 40L and 15L backpacks
  • 2x rubber luggage tags for both backpacks

BAGS & CUBES

  • Osprey Farview 55L in misty grey- reasons I LOVE this bag:
    • Front part zips off, becoming a day pack or carry-on bag
    • Big bag opens like a suitcase- it’s so easy to find things
    • Zipper pulls are wide enough to lock
    • There’s a flap to cover the back straps, which ensures they don’t get caught in a conveyer belt/ripped off
      • Note: I travelled for 10 months with 55L (both bags), and then downsized to only the 40L part for my final two months of travel
  • Small, cross-body bag (fits so much, safe/secure, and water repellent) 
  • Fold-up canvas tote
  • 12L dry sack (great for beach days and boats)
  • Foldable laundry bag (helpful for keeping dirty bits separate if I’m on the go)
  • Backpack cover for rainy days
  • Gonex compression packing cubes (absolutely essential for fitting a lot into a small space)
  • 4x Amazon’s slim cubes (handy for organising tons of miscellaneous bits)
  • 2-3x small pouches to organize bits & bobs

TRAVEL SNACKS

I replace when needed, but usually have 2-3 Lara Bars (or the equivalent) and raw almonds. If in the US, I wouldn’t bother with carrying these things, but with nut allergies, it can be tough to find food quickly on the go if there’s a travel delay, or it looks like I’ll miss a meal.

Often, before a longer flight, I’ll pick up a few other things- like fresh fruit (apples, bananas, oranges), make a sandwich (pb&j), or bring other dry snacks (popcorn, dark chocolate) to ensure I’m covered in airports and flights where options for vegetarians or those with nut allergies may be limited. 

Have you ever gone on an extended backpacking trip? What did you bring with you? What would you add to this list of everything needed to backpack the world?

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