One of the most challenging aspects of long term travel is deciding what to bring and what to leave at home. For travelers who plan to be gone for months or years at a time – how do you decide what to include in your long term travel packing list?
The answer to this question depends somewhat on the kind of travel you will be doing. Will you be moving around a lot or staying mostly in one place? Do you require a lot of electronics or technical gear?
No matter what kind of traveling you plan on, however, I’m a firm believer that less is more.
My first experience with long-term travel was as a university student when I backpacked across Europe. Years later, I spent 5 months in the wilderness hiking most of the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail.
These experiences informed my long term travel packing list for a 3-year trip around the world with my husband Daniel. We had no permanent home and lived out of carryon-sized luggage the entire time (except for a short stint in a VW Rialta motorhome during the pandemic).
Believe me when I tell you that you don’t want to overpack. Lugging around giant heavy suitcases gets really old really fast.
Rather, focus on bringing a few lightweight versatile items with you. Look for clothing that doesn’t wrinkle and can serve more than one purpose (for example, a dress that doubles as a nightgown). Wear layers and plan to do laundry about once a week.
And remember – unless you’re traveling in highly remote areas or require specialized gear or medication, you can usually pick up what you need as you go.
My Travel Priorities
Before you begin packing, give some thought to your travel priorities. What’s most important to you when you travel? What activities do you plan to engage in along the way?
One of my biggest travel priorities is hiking, so you’ll notice that I mention hiking frequently in the list below. While I only packed 4 t-shirts, I prioritized a pair of hiking poles and 2 pairs of trail running shoes. I planned to hike the 150-mile Portuguese Camino during our trip, so I ensured that my backpack was comfortable enough to wear on a long-distance trail.
I also have an autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis. The medication is expensive and hard to obtain, so I brought a lot of it with me in case I suffered from a flare-up on the road.
What you choose to bring will vary depending on your own travel priorities. Just take care not to go overboard and remember – less is more!
Favorite Gear from My Long Term Travel List
Before diving into my comprehensive long term travel packing list, I’ll start by calling out a few of my favorite items.
Favorite Travel Clothing: Arc’teryx Delta LT Jacket
I *LOVE* this soft fleece Arc’teryx Delta LT Jacket. It is lightweight and warm without being too hot and layers well with other coats. I can wear it while I’m hiking or pair it with a nice dress at a fancy restaurant. Daniel has the exact same jacket in the men’s version and we both wear our coats all the time (and look like twins while we’re at it).
Favorite Electronics Item: WB 2TB Portable Hard Drive
The WB 2TB My Passport Portable External Hard Drive only weighs 4.2 ounces and holds 2TB of data. It’s a great way to store tons of photos or digital media without weighing down your pack. Be sure to also buy a durable carrying case for it.
Best Travel Hack: Tiny Bottle of Deodorant
My favorite travel hack is one that I picked up when I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017. I’ve used Mitchem unscented deodorant for years but didn’t want to bring along the bulky roll-on applicator. So I bought a 2-oz wide mouth plastic container and filled it with gel deodorant. I simply apply it to my underarms with my finger and it lasts for about four months.
Essential International Travel Gear: International Power Adaptor
This Ceptics World Travel USB C Plug Adaptor Kit has EU, UK and USA/AUS plugs as well as 2 USB ports and 1 USB-C port. I love it because I can plug 4 items into it at once! I pair this with a 9-ft power cord and l’m good to go!
Favorite Hiking Gear: LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles
I never go hiking without trekking poles because they save my knees from extra wear and tear. My favorite hiking poles for travel are the LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles. Not only are they super lightweight, they also fold down to a small size and easily fit into almost any backpack.
Essential Digital Nomad Gear: Dell XPS 13 Laptop
The ASUS ZenBook 13 which is significantly cheaper, but I prefer the keyboard on the Dell.
Best Ultralight Gear: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket
The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket is an excellent lightweight puffy jacket that won’t add much extra weight to your pack. It’s super warm and the hooded version only weighs 9.6 ounces.
Surprise Gear Favorite: Patagonia Ultralight Mini Hip Pack
After the 1980s I swore I would never wear a fanny pack again. Well… as it turns out they are insanely comfortable and convenient! I stored my camera in this Patagonia Ultralight Mini Hip Pack during my long term travels and wore it pretty much every day!
Essential Sleep Gear: Sleep Mask
A good night’s sleep is important. Unfortunately, many hotels and AirBnB apartments have gauzy curtains or cheap blinds that permit sunlight to stream through. This 3D Contoured Memory Foam Sleep Mask is great because it contours to your face to prevent light from getting through. I never leave home without it!
Most Important Gear: Altra Timp Trail Running Shoes
The biggest priority when I’m traveling is protecting my feet. I do tons of hiking, walking and exploring – and therefore need to ensure that my feet do not become hurt or injured. Altra Timp Trail Running Shoes are super comfortable and I wear them constantly both on the trail and off.
All-Around Gear Favorite: Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III Camera
The Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III is my go-to camera both on the trail and in my travels around the world. It’s super lightweight, shoots 4K video, and boasts many advanced features. Plus it has a 4.2x optical zoom and a tilting 3-inch LCD touch panel – which is perfect for taking selfies! Don’t forget to bring along extra batteries and memory cards!
Comprehensive Long Term Travel Packing List
Now that we’ve gotten the preliminaries out of the way, I present to you my comprehensive long term travel packing list.
The Most Important Things: Passports & Documentation
Let’s start with the most important thing of all: your passport! Have you checked to see if you need vaccinations, visas, or if there are any COVID-related travel requirements for your destination? I recommend printing these all out in advance.
- Visas (if required)
- Travel vaccines (if required)
- COVID vaccine documentation (if required)
- Negative COVID test result (if required)
- Travel insurance
- Change purse to carry local currency
Backpacks, Carry-on Luggage, and Storage Solutions
I’m a huge fan of traveling with a backpack rather than pulling along a roller bag. This is because I like the flexibility of being able to easily walk to the train station or amble along a beach without lugging a bag behind me.
In fact, I like backpacks so much that I travel with 3 of them.
- Main backpack: REI Co-op Ruckpack 40L – women’s
This is my biggest piece of luggage and I couldn’t be happier with it. I chose this bag because I wanted a pack with very comfortable hip straps so that I could also use it on the 150-mile Camino Portuguese. The bag features an optional back panel that zips over the straps in case I want to check it in at the airport (which I usually do).
- Day Hiking & Electronics backpack: Osprey Manta 24L (Men’s) / Mira 22L (Women’s)
This is a great backpack for day hikes because it features comfortable hip straps and can comfortably carry a reasonable amount of gear. I store my laptop and all electronics in it when we travel (and wear it on my front side if my main backpack is on my back).
Note: I actually had the 28L size which is no longer manufactured, but I think a smaller size would have worked fine for me too. If you want a bigger size, Osprey makes a larger version for both the Manta (34L) and the Mira (32L).
- Packable backpack: REI Co-op Stuff Travel Pack 20L
This lightweight backpack is great because it carries a surprisingly large amount for its size. It packs down into a tiny size and easily fits into my bag when I’m not using it. The bag doubles as a purse and a reusable grocery bag.
Not a fan of traveling with a backpack? Use a wheeled carry-on bag instead. This is what Daniel uses when we travel because it puts less stress on his knees.
- Carry-on Bag: Eagle Creek Gear Warrior 22″ 38L International Carryon
The Eagle Creek Gear Warrior is an amazingly durable bag. Daniel has lived out of it nonstop for the past 3 years and it has held up like a champ. It is very rugged and is still in great shape. We have the version with 2 wheels rather than the 4-wheeled version because it is sturdier.
Note: it appears that these bags are no longer being manufactured by Eagle Creek which is a major bummer. I have found a few online at secondary resale stores so grab one if you can find it!
- Toiletries Organizer: Eagle Creek Quick Trip Packing Organizer Toiletry Bag
- Packing Cubes: Eagle Creek Pack-It Isolate Cube Set
- Fanny Pack: Patagonia Ultralight Mini Hip Pack
- Ziploc Bags: Variety pack of Gallon, Quart, Sandwich and Snack Ziploc Bags
I always repackage snacks, toiletries and other miscellaneous items into baggies because they are much lighter than normal packaging. Be sure to bring along a few extras in each size for later use.
- Tiny Plastic Baggies: 2″ x 3″ Resealable Plastic Bags
These plastic baggies are perfect for storing small quantities of medications, jewelry, safety pins and other random doo-dads. Bring lots of extras because it’s hard to find replacements once you’re on the road!
Camera and Camera Accessories
- Camera: Canon PowerShot G7X Mark III
- Camera Battery Charger: Canon G7X Battery Charger
- Extra Camera Batteries: Canon G7X Battery
I always bring along at *least* 2 extra fully charged batteries with me (sometimes more).
Pro Tip: Buy the battery from the manufacturer rather than an alternate brand as it will last much longer.
- Extra Memory Cards: SanDisk 250GB Extreme PRO SD Memory Card
*ALWAYS* have an extra memory card on hand – preferably the biggest size possible to save on pack weight. I usually travel with at least 2 or 3 extras because it’s hard to find the 256GB size on the road.
- Portable Tripod: Tamrac ZipShot Tripod
Folds down to 9″ and only weighs 9 oz.
Laptop, Portable Hard Drive, and Computer Accessories
- Laptop: Dell XPS 13
- Laptop Sleeve: ZinMark Laptop Sleeve 13″
- Wireless Mouse: Jelly Comb 2.4GType C Optical Mouse
- Portable Hard Drive: WB 2TB My Passport Portable External Hard Drive
- SD Card Reader: Anker USB-C 2-in-1 SD Card Reader
This is essential for transferring photos from your memory card to your computer.
- HDMI Cable: USB C to HDMI 6′ Cable
A HDMI cable is a godsend when you want to stream movies on your laptop and project them to the TV in your hotel room. I recommend a 6′ cord because sometimes the nearest electrical outlet is not close to the TV.
- Thumb Drive: SanDisk 128GB Ultra Dual Drive
Great for storing documents like Visa applications that need to be printed at a copy center!
- Portable Keyboard
I did not bring along an extra keyboard but many Digital Nomads choose to do so.
Charging Solutions and Phone Accessories
I have a Google Pixel phone so these cords and chargers are designed for a USB-C plug. Equivalent versions are also available for USB plugs as well.
- International Power Adaptor: Ceptics World Travel USB C Plug Adaptor Kit
- Phone Charger: Anker USB C Fast Charger
I usually leave this small phone charger plugged in next to my bed along with an individual adaptor plug appropriate for the country that I’m currently traveling in.
- Power Bank: Anker 10000 mAh Portable Charger with USB and USB-C Ports
My phone is several years old and no longer carries a charge for very long, unfortunately. I always bring this power bank along with me so that my phone doesn’t die.
- Long Charging Cord: Amazon Basics 9′ USB-C to USB-C Charging Cable
I highly recommend bringing at least one extra long charging cord. 9 feet may seem like a lot, but it comes in super handy when the outlet is on the other side of the room.
- Short Charging Cord: 3′ USB-C to USB-C Charging Cable
- Wireless Headphones: Apple AirPods
I actually had a cheaper set of wireless headphones with me and wished I had splurged on AirPods!
- Wired Headphones: Google USB-C Wired Earbuds
It’s always good to have a backup pair of wired headphones with you in case your wireless ones run out of battery.
Shirts and Dresses
- Short-Sleeved Shirts (4)
I typically pack 4 short-sleeved shirts: a dressy shirt, a plain black versatile shirt, a fun printed shirt, and a hiking shirt.
- Tank top
- Long-Sleeved Sun Shirt: Columbia Sun Shirt
I pack a Marmot sun shirt which unfortunately is discontinued. The Columbia sun shirt is pretty great though and has SPF 40 built in.
- Casual Dress/Nightgown: Mountain Hardwear Women’s Everyday Perfect Dress
This casual dress is super comfy and doubles as a nightgown and bathing suit cover up!
- Packable Fancy Black Dress – for those fancy dinners!
Skirts and Pants
- Hiking Skirt: Purple Rain Skirt
I’m a big fan of hiking in a skirt because it’s so freeing. Wearing a skirt makes going to the bathroom a breeze!
- Hiking Pants: prAna Women’s Halle Pant
I packed a light pair of leggings to wear under my skirt on chilly days.
Socks and Underwear
- Everyday Socks (4 pairs): Wright sock cool mesh II ankle socks
These socks are breathable and have 2 layers to help prevent blisters. They are great for traveling and short hikes.
- Hiking Socks: Injinji Toe Socks
- Underpants: ExOfficio Women’s Bikini Underpants
- Hiking Underpants: ExOfficio Men’s Give-n-Go 9″ Boxer Briefs
I admit it! I wear men’s underpants whenever I hike. These ones are 9″ long so they prevent thigh chafing under my skirt. Plus the fact that they are meant to accommodate a man’s anatomy means they are extra roomy in the crotch to help with airflow.
- Sports Bras (3)
Hats and Shoes
- Shoes (2 pairs): Altra Timp Trail Running Shoes
- Sandals: ECCO Sport Sandals
- Sun Hat: Wide Brim Sun Hat
- Fun Hat: Unicorn Trucker Hat
- Warm Hat: Outdoor Research Transcendent Down Beanie
- Puffy Coat: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket – 9.6 oz
- Light Jacket: Arc’teryx Delta LT Jacket
- Rain Coat: Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket – 5.6 oz
Toiletries and Medication
COVID is an unfortunate reality when it comes to travel these days. Be sure to bring along some N-95 masks (or equivalent) plus some at-home COVID tests in case you feel sick. Also bring along a digital thermometer and some cold medication in case you do end up getting COVID on the road
- At-home COVID tests
- N95 or equivalent masks
- Cough Drops
- Cold Medicine
- Hand Sanitizer
Be sure to only bring very small quantities of toiletries along with you. You can buy more as you go.
- Toiletries Bag
- Night Guard
- Travel size shampoo
- Travel size conditioner
- Travel size sunscreen
- Facial sunscreen
- Daily pillbox container
- Travel size hand lotion
- Toothbrush, toothpaste & floss
- Small bar of soap
- Ear plugs
- Small cuticle scissors
- Fingernail clippers
Medication and First Aid Supplies
I pack all of my medications and first aid supplies into a Quart-sized Ziploc baggie. Remember that you can pick up most first aid supplies and over the counter medicines quite easily so you don’t need to bring very much.
An exception is prescription medicine. Be sure to bring along extra quantities of any prescription medications you may need (I asked my doctor to prescribe me extra). Also some countries don’t sell allergy medicine like Benadryl over the counter so I always bring a lot with me.
Pro Tip: repackage all your medicines into small pill bags or snack-sized bags.
- Claritin/Benadryl (Allergy Medication)
Can be hard to find in Europe
- Foot cream
- Imodium / Anti-diarrheal tablets
- Feminine supplies (pads, tampons, period cup or period underwear)
- Birth control/sexual wellness
- Prescription medicine
- Hiking Poles
- Bathing Suit
- Small sharpie
- Small Swiss Army knife
- Bandana (pee rag)
- Small roll of duct tape
- Safety pins (3-5)
- Carabiners (2-3)
- Laundry soap
- Shout wipes
- Sleep Mask
- Gear patch
Do you have any questions about the best gear for long-term travel? Shoot me a question in the comment below!
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