Updated: The Ultimate Guide to Packing for a Year

Photo on 1-13-16 at 3.34 PM #2

Original post: January 2016. Updated: January 2017. Reviews in italics.

By now, you probably know that I’ll be packing up my life and traveling the world as a participant of Remote Year for a full year. One year. A YEAR. 12 months and 12 cities. 365 days. (If you just said “What the..?!?!” and need to catch up, read this and this now)

This list is intended to be a step-by-step guide for all you wanderers who plans to travel for an extended period of time. Depending on the locations and duration of your trip, your needs will likely vary. This list focuses on necessities that will be hard to find overseas. You can always buy toiletries and more clothing abroad.

After a year of travel, how did this packing list hold up? What did I love and what do I wish I had done differently?  Was anything missing that I realized I couldn’t live without?


Backpack(s)

Multi-Day Pack: Gregory Deva 60

Probably my single favorite purchase and the one I put the most time and research into. The REI guy was my best friend by the end of my 3 visits to “test it out” and walk around the store for hours on end.

Highlights include: A3 suspension system for really easy mobility and superior comfort, front loading zipper, and included rain cover and ultra lightweight day pack/CamelBak sleeve.

The Good:  I’m happy that I went with a backpack instead of a suitcase. The greater mobility in airports and on buses was worth the additional cost. It also easily slides under a bed when not in use.

The Bad: (1) When the bag in laying horizontal with the backpack straps facing down, the 2 pockets on the lid open downwards so all of your stuff falls out. I imagine there is a reason for this for actual hikers, but I can’t figure it out for travel purposes. (2) The waist strap buckle broke (got melted?) while in transit as a checked bag. I can’t hold this against Gregory but I do wish that the buckle were a higher quality plastic to be able to handle whatever happened to it.

Verdict: 7/10 would buy again. Overall, I found the Gregory Deva 70* is a really high-quality bag with smart storage options. It carries very light and (mostly) held up to the stress I put it through. *I thought I bought the 60 liter, but let’s be honest, I needed the extra room and I’m glad I actually went with the 70 liter.

Day Pack: The North Face Surge, Black

I was sold on the softness of the material of the laptop pocket and by the organizational options of the small pocket. They both are top notch compared to similar brands I tried. The rest is a pretty standard, high-end backpack.

The Good:  The laptop sleeve is amazing and kept my computer safe and scratch-free all year. It’s also the perfect size for a weekend trip with clothes, laptop, and toiletries. 

The Bad: For everyday use as a digital nomad, it’s a bit heavy and bulky. The straps are firm and structurally sound, but that means that with extended wear there is little to no give in the material and they can rub your neck raw.

Verdict: 8/10 would buy again but would also have a smaller day pack.

Shoes

Are 5 pairs of shoes too many? I think 5 is too many, but they all play an important role. I ❤ shoes! I NEED THEM!

The Good: The boots were the most comfortable shoe I owned all year, but the “chasing summer” weather didn’t always permit their use.

The Bad:  Believe it or not, 5 pairs of shoes was not enough for the variety of activities that I participated in. The Toms were destroyed in the first 6 months and my friends forced me to retire them when my toes started sticking out. I upgraded to Birkenstocks as my daily shoe of choice.

Verdict: 4/10 on my original shoe selection. Lots of changes happened during the year and I ended with the boots, tennis shoes, and Teva Sandals + plastic Havaianas’ sandals, Birkenstocks, 2 H&M flats (black and brown), and gold hipster Oxfords = 8 pairs of shoes!

Clothes

My strategy is to bring enough for 2 weeks of unique outfits. The good news is that most of the destinations will be summertime and sundresses, shorts, and tanks don’t take up much room at all.

It’s a solid idea to coordinate the colors scheme so you can easily mix and match all tops, bottoms, and shoe combinations. Focus on materials that do not wrinkle, do not require special care instruction, and match the climates you will be visiting. Try and not bring anything sentimental for obvious reasons. Think of packing as you would (hopefully) think of money at a Casino – if you aren’t okay losing it, don’t bring it!

Again, this is just a starting point and I doubt I’ll have most of this at the end of the year. You can always pick up unique and country-specific items along the way.

Bottoms

  • 3 Shorts
  • 2 Skirts
  • 2 Pants
  • 2 Leggings
  • 1 Sweatpants (YASSS!)
  • 2 Running Shorts

Tops

  • 2 Long Sleeve
  • 5 Tank Tops
  • 3 V-Neck
  • 2 Blouses
  • 1 PJs

Other

  • 3 Dresses
  • 1 Raincoat – Columbia
  • 1 Sweater
  • 2 “Nicer” outfits
  • 1 Swimsuit
  • A million socks

The Good: Everything did indeed mix and match like I was hoping and the quality of the materials lasted well through the various washing methods in the different countries.

The Bad: Over half of the above was lost, stolen, stained, or ripped. Don’t count on keeping the same wardrobe intact and REALLY don’t bring anything you care about a lot.

Verdict: 6/10 appropriate for the year. Don’t worry too much about what you bring initially because you can (and will!) always buy new things. In hindsight, one million socks were probably too many socks…

Technology

Macbook Pro 13″, duh.

Dbrand makes an awesome MacBook skin in matte titanium which has been on my computer for a month or so, and I’m really happy with the performance protecting against scratches and dirt.

The Good: The adhesive stuck 100% and it protected my computer just as expected. I also got continuous compliments on the design.

The Bad: Honestly nothing. I didn’t even think about this purchase the whole year, which is what you want from an item that is designed to unintrusively protect your belongings.

Verdict: 10/10 recommend.

Portable Bluetooth Speaker

I got the Harman Kardon Esquire Mini awhile back and it’s changed the way I hear music! It’s super durable and I know this because it’s been dropped *cough cough* quite a few times. This one won’t be a necessity for most people, but for me is nonnegotiable. I already know my fellow Remotes will thank me during 3 am dance parties!

The Good: I can proudly report that my Harman Kardon speaker could stand up to the test of 3 am dance parties. The biggest pros are the sound quality and compact size.

The Bad: Sometimes I had trouble pairing the device based on the wifi situation, but I know this is a common problem among all speaker brands. It also isn’t a durable as, say, UE Megaboom or Jawbone Jambox.

Verdict: 10/10 recommend as an at-home speaker and 6/10 as a travel speaker. If I had to make this choice again, I would buy something waterproof/resistant.

My Passion Planner

I count the Passion Planner as technology because it’s a replacement for a digital calendar plus SO much more. It’s not small or lightweight, either. I made a very conscious decision to bring it because in just the past 3 weeks I’ve been using it, I’ve accomplished more than I have in, I dunno, the previous 3 MONTHS… If you so decide you want to get serious about following your dreams too, reach out to me first and I’ll give you the full scoop.

The Good: With so many moving parts in travel, it was nice to have a consolidated place to write them down. I was also able to plan and track goals effectively and complete the monthly reflections.

The Bad: The size and weight. While I thought it wouldn’t bother me, I ended up ditching the physical version after just 4 months. 

Verdict: 10/10 for real life, 3/10 for travel. I continued with the concept of the Passion Planner, but moved it into a digital version just for this year. Since I’ll be returning home in 2017, I have already ordered this year’s physical planner.

Odds and Ends

Lifestraw

The LifeStraw Go is a portable way to filter any fresh-water source to eliminate 99.9999% of bacteria and will come in handy in some of the countries outside of Europe. It will also pay for itself in less than a month by drastically cutting down on the cost of bottled water.

The Good: It protected me from 99.9999% of bacteria, I guess? Our whole group had stomach trouble on an off and will probably never know if it is from contaminated water or the 100 other things we did/ate.

The Bad: It leaks and squeaks. After 4 months I gave up on using the Lifestraw because carrying it in my backpack near my laptop was just too much of a liability. Even if it did the filtering portion of its job perfectly, it’s useless if I can’t carry it around comfortably.

Verdict: 2/10 recommend. 

Packing Cubes

These have revolutionized the way to pack a suitcase or backpack! Your clothes can compact down really nicely and stay put. I got a great set of 6 Rusoji Premium Cubes for Christmas. 2 small, 2 medium, 2 large.

The Good: These cubes performed exactly as expected and drastically improved packing and organization.

The Bad: I didn’t need all 6 that they offered in this pack at any one time, but it was nice to have the different size options to experiment with.

Verdict: 10/10 recommend packing cubes of some type, although I’m not sure the brand makes a huge difference.

Quick Dry Towels

Another great Christmas gift from mom and dad. Sunland Microfiber Sports Towels come in a variety of colors and sizes and all include a cute little carrying case. Great for any beach or hotel shower.

The Good: It doesn’t take up a lot of room so there isn’t a huge downfall to packing it just in case. 

The Bad: The material is super-absorbant of everything, including smells. This isn’t a “use multiple times between washing” item unless you want all of your luggage to smell like whatever you did last 😳. I never even used the small size.

Verdict: Honestly, no opinion. I found that most places I stayed had towels so I mostly used it at the beach and pools where I could have easily just dried in the sun.  


Dear lord, please don’t go back and add up the cost of all of this gear. But since I’ll be on the road for an entire year, it was an easy decision to invest in high-quality goods. I really believe that it will pay off in the long run since I won’t be replacing something every week.

Most of this stuff can also be purchased second hand on Craigslist, Ebay, or your local Goodwill. Please don’t let these costs discourage you from planning your own adventure!

So there it is! You now have the perfect packing list for an extended journey of any kind. Research on these products has easily taken me 30+ hours, but I enjoy doing it and I hope my work has given you a great starting point.

I plan to provide 6 month and 1 year updates on how everything holds up and make any necessary adjustments to the list. Keep an eye out for that 😉

One year update – BOOM! Overall, I’m really happy with the performance of the products that I selected for this crazy year around the world.

My advice to you, dear future traveler, is:

  • Write down your travel goals – Are you planning on moving locations every few days or staying put for a few weeks at a time? Will you be in major cities with clean water and sidewalks for suitcases or will you be in more rural and exotic terrain? Does fashion matter or can you get away with wearing the same 3 shirts all the time?
  • Consider your budget – travel gear can get really expensive if you let it, but it does not have to be. Consider buying second hand through Craigslist or Goodwill. Opt for an “off” brand that provides a quality product but isn’t as expensive. 
  • Just do it! If you have dreams of traveling, don’t get caught up in “the perfect packing list” because you’ll never find it. Instead, focus on things that work for your purposes right now and don’t stress over the rest. The world is a lot more familiar than you may imagine and you can get new clothes or travel gear anywhere you go, often for cheaper!

*Worth noting, these companies are not paying me to promote their products but I really believe they are the best on the market at the moment. #SponsorsWelcome

 

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2 comments

  1. Ernest Imade · January 13, 2016

    This is amazing and on another level of traveling. Again, be safe. I’m also working on something like this. Great tips. Maybe I’ll see you in one of these countries.

    Like

  2. Tessa · January 14, 2016

    This makes me so happy!! I love you so much, and I’m so excited for you! I see your list has socks, but no panties…that’s important too! 😉

    Like

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