Saturday, November 3, 2012

What to Pack For Traveling Around the World

Comfortable backpack for long treks
Packing for a long trip can be daunting. Sometimes you want to take everything that you use on a daily basis, but remember everything is on your back, you also have to lift it into trains, taxis, buses, and planes. So before packing your hair drier, straightener, muscle milk powder, and plasma screen TV, think do I really need this. I recommend packing small, light and smart for your long journey. Only the necessities.

If things have multiple use it’s the best (ie a shoe lace- tie up a ripped pack, clothesline, strapping things to your pack, maybe you need to make a splint or just tie back your hair. Also many of these items might be available in the countries that you visit and might be a lot cheaper.

Things to take:

Most important is a comfortable backpack, I recommend one with multiple entry openings; this will prevent you from taking out everything to get to the bottom. Also remember to label you pack with a travel tag, its good if the airline loses your bag (happened to me) or if your bag gets lost or stolen.


One of those Monday-Sunday organizers are good to keep them organized, just make sure to label each compartment with sharpie. I bought a child’s one which has locks on it; this prevents the compartments from spontaneously opening and all the pills from pouring out. Also most of these are available in other countries over the counter and much cheaper.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for head aches
  • Ibuprofen (Advil) for muscle cramps and hang-overs
  • Imodium for travelers diarrhea
  • Vitamins and Probiotics to keep you healthy
  • Antibiotic (like ciprofloxacin) for intestinal bacterial infections
  • Dramamine if you get motion sickness and you plan to travel in bus or jeep
  • Tums for spicy food
  • Anti-malaria medication if you are planning to go to a malaria prone area, see map here
  • Altitude medication (Diamox) if you plan to go over 10,000ft or 3,000 meters
  • ORS- Oral Rehydration salts in case you get nauseous, these rebalance your electrolytes, they taste like shit, but they can save your life, no joke.
  • Cough drops if you are going to a cold weather place

Me in Indian Shalwar Kamee suit


Remember if you are going to some place that is cold you might want to take more warm clothes vs if you are going somewhere hot you might want more shorts and T-shirts. Make sure to think about the culture before you pack. Many places like the Middle East, Africa, and India have cultural restrictions especially when it comes to women’s cloths.  If you are going to a more conservative place take shorts that end bellow your knees and shirts that cover your shoulders and don’t reveal too much cleavage. Head covering is needed to go into many temples and places of worship so it’s good to buy or take a scarf, this can also serve to keep you warm or as a sarong for the beach. I also highly recommend dressing in cultural cloths. In India I bought Indian style suits, this shows that you are respectful of the culture.

Cold Weather:

  • Warm jacket
  • Wool thermals
  • Warm Hat
  • Gloves
  • Scarf

All the Time: 

  • Medium Sweater
  • Compact windbreaker/ rain coat
  • Running shorts or board shorts
  • Short sleeve (1-2)
  • Tank top or wife beater (1-2)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Flexible jeans
  • Yoga pants – Can be used as jammies and regular pants
  • Underwear (3-4) ones that dry quickly, I tested all the ones I owned to see which ones dried fastest
  • Wool socks (2-3) or sports socks
  • Walking shoes or gortex hiking boots depending on what you are going to be doing most
  • Flip-flops for the beach and shower
  • Swim suite and sarong (remember, certain places like India women wear full cloths to swim)
folding flats


  • More wool socks they are the best
  • Hat with a brim
  • Zip off hiking pants


  • Bra (2) sports bra and a convertible bra
  • A light summer dress if its gonna be hot
  • Foldable flats if you are planning for some fancier events 


Travel outlet converter
  • Camera
  • MP3 player for the road
  • Multiple SD cards for your camera
  • Small travel laptop, ipad, or netbook (make sure to bring a case)
  • Unlocked phone – sim cards are available in other countries and usually are fairly cheap
  • Chargers
  • Thumb drive – to steal pic’s from others and to save copies of all important documents (passport, passport photos, ID, insurance, tickets)I would also save a copy of all these to your email, just in case you lose your thumb drive.
  • Travel outlet converter
  • Headlamp for reading at night or trekking
  • extra batteries


  • Travel toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
  • Regular size bottle of conditioner and shampoo, it goes fast and it’s obnoxious to have to buy small bottles ever week.
  • Travel Towel – It takes some time to get use to but they dry so quickly and weigh almost nothing
  • Laundry detergent (powder in a ziplock bag)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sun screen  - At least SPF 30
  • Lip-balm (tinted ones can serve as lipstick)
  • Girls: basic make-up, what can't you live without?
  • Girls: tampons (the small ones) and pads (the ultra-thin ones) or a Diva Cup

Money and Identification

Wear your money belt to sleep on the trains in India
  • Passport - I recommend leaving this at the hostel in your locker, unless you know you are going to need it. Carry a copy instead. 
  • Alternate ID place somewhere hidden in your pack in case you lose your passport
  • Health and travel insurance cards or information if you have it
  • Bank Cards (I would bring two a debit to take out money and a credit for emergencies and keep it hidden in your pack) Either ally bank or Charles Schwab are the best for debit since they don't charge ATM fees or have international fees, otherwise you will be paying up to 5% of what you spend in fees. 
  • ISIC or Student ID card to get some discounts while traveling
  • Copy of your passport (I would take 2-5 copies, you often need them to apply for visa's and trekking permits)
  • Extra passport photos for visa's, trekking permits, and entry permits. (I would take at least 5 if you are planning to travel to many different countries, or if you are going to be traveling for a while) Some places ask for two copies so its a good idea to save a copy on your thumb drive in case you need to print more.
  • Travel/ money belt - some places its safe enough to carry a purse but its good to have one just in case you are planning to sleep in public transportation. I would recommend it at all times just for your valuables.


  • Book - just take one, most hostels have a library or take a kindle
  • Sun glasses with UV protection and a case
  • Small first aid kit for blisters, small cuts and scrapes
  • Sleeping bag liner – the best for dirty beds
  • Swiss army knife
  • Combination lock (I hate keys because they get lost) for lockers in the hostel
  • Bike lock if you plan to be taking public transportation (I used it for the trains in india)
  • Extra ziplock bags of all sizes (for snacks, or to keep souvenirs like ticket stubs and post cards dry and clean) trash bags for wet cloths, or to cover you backpack in case you get caught in a storm or if you want to send your laundry to the cleaners.
  • Journal to write down memories or if you are taking a computer that can serve as a journal
  • Pen and small notebook to write down numbers, names and new words you learn
  • Snacks for the plane ride, remember food is available everywhere, sometime you might have to go without your favorite food for a couple months, but try something new.
Wool socks are the best, Patagonia "W" Hike
Hiking gear? If you are planning to travel for a while I would recommend not bringing any hiking or trekking gear. You can usually buy or rent gear where you go, and it will often be cheaper than buying it from home. In Patagonia I rented a stove, pots and pans, tent, sleeping mats and even a waterproof windbreaker I think it was less than $10 a day for everything since I was sharing with my trekking partner. In Nepal for the Annapurna Circuit I bought gear in Kathmandu and Pokhara. A “down” jacket cost only $20, hiking pants were only $10 and trekking polls for $8. On the AC you don’t need a tent you stay in guest houses along the way. You can also buy food in the country before you head out on your trek. The only thing I recommend taking is a sleeping bag, because who knows if the one you’re renting is warm enough, also it’s good if you make friends and end up sleeping on couches.

Tip #1: Save shopping till the end of your travels, you don’t want to carry around pounds of souvenirs for months. I would recommend you buy one or two small items from places you find special, these can be key chains, pens, stickers and post cards.

Tip #2: I know this seems like a lot of stuff, but I took everything on this list and my pack started at only 12 kilos (25lbs). Buy small, compact and lightweight to save space. Don't bring items that you will only use once.
Patagonia, Chile

Tip #3: Bring clothes that dry fast. You will be on the move but you still want to have clean clothes. You will be washing cloths by hand and hang drying them.

Tip #4: Take a debit card that does not charge you ATM fees, this will allow you to take out as little money as you want each transaction, just in case it gets stolen you wont lose your whole weeks allowance. Many people who travel with cards that charge fees will take out large sums of money each time to reduce the amount of fees. Imagine walking around with $500 in your wallet, not safe.

Tip #5: Learn how to self medicate. Learn drug interactions for medications you are taking, when to take them and at what dose. In the case of Imodium, its good for travelers diarrhea, but if you have a bacterial infection, diarrhea will help you body eliminate the bacteria, and you really need an antibiotic like ciprofloxacin, Imodium will only treat the symptoms not the cause of the symptoms. I will write a future blog about travel medications.

If you think I forgot something let me know and I can add it.

Here some music to listen to while you are reading:

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