We've been travelling for almost 18 months now and we've certainly gotten used to living out of a backpack. There are a million 'packing checklists' or 'travel must-haves' out there, so we decided to share with you the things we learnt over time and things we discovered through trial and error (sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing!). Our Travel Resources page has been created to help you get ready for any travels you're dreaming of and in this post we would love to share with you information on:
-What backpacks you should take with you,
-what to pack,
- our favourite things to travel with,
- general packing tips.
First things first – keep in mind that the following will happen:
- things will break
- you’ll have too many things
- you’ll have the wrong things
- you’ll lose stuff or it gets stolen
- no matter what size backpack you take, you'll find a way to fill it up.
- and the perfect backpack doesn’t exist, you just have to adapt.
WHICH BACKPACK TO CHOOSE FOR LONG TERM TRAVEL?
Choosing the right backpack is super important as it needs to be practical, durable and look good! After all, it is going to be everywhere you are and (if you are like us) will be in many of your photos. A decent backpack will set you back anywhere from $200 to $500.
After very careful considerations, and lots of research & testing at the ‘ backpack’ shops, we decided to go for bigger bags as we do carry a lot of equipment with us.
75L Black Wolf McKinely Backpack with rain cover
70+15L Eagle Creek Backpack with rain cover
The main compartment can be opened fully for quick access. The hood is completely detachable and has 'secret' storage on the inside. It also has a small detachable 15l daypack.
For some reason, luggage handlers always put this bag upside down & it doesn't have a distinctive handle to carry when it is not on your back. The rain cover only just covers the bag when it is full.
It has a separate section at the bottom for lesser use items. It has two large side pockets and a hood for extra storage. Clips and straps on the outside make it easy to to attach things to the bag
It's so big! The 'rain cover' only covers half of the bag. Once you fill it tightly, you can only really access the bag from the top - if you try to get something out from the bottom then you'll need to repack everything.
(bought at the market in Chiang Mai, Thailand)
Extremely sturdy and durable. Has two separate compartments that have different access points. Can easily store two cameras and multiple lenses safely. Has large pockets on the outside for drink bottles and tripod. Separate laptop pocket.
The fact that it has the Nat Geo label stitched on to it makes it a target for would be thieves. It's big and when you fill it up it gets very heavy.
Big enough to store laptop, drone and other items. Lots of pockets and pouches to store things.
The top zip broke pretty quickly and needed replacement. If it gets wet it takes a long time to dry.
WHAT TO PACK FOR LONG TERM TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD?
Below is the comprehensive list of all the things we take with us for our travels. Although it is not definitive by any means, we manage to survive quite alright on things we have with us.
It is important to think about the practicality of the items you take. There is no point in taking three pairs of jeans and four pairs of shoes as you simply don't need them, but it does makes sense to take a reduced version of your normal wardrobe. You need to feel comfortable and have all the conditions covered. Some places will be hot, some will be cold and it will DEFINITELY rain at some point. Also, don't think that if you're going to developing countries, you won't need a nice dress or a good shirt - people all around the world tend to look stylish, especially when you go out in capital cities and having a nicer set of clothes will make you feel more comfortable when you go out. You'll need to buy some things specific for the travelling lifestyle but this doesn't mean you need to buy a complete new set of clothes. There are some ridiculous items on the market for travellers and most are not needed. Not for a second have we regretted not buying those travel safe underwear with zippers and pockets or the trousers with three levels of 'zip-off-able' legs...
This list does not include the tech gear we travel with - read our 'What's In Our Camera Bag?' for more info on that.
Hanna's Packing List:
Week's worth of underwear and a few pair of socks
1x long sleeve
1x checkered shirt
1x midi skirt
2x maxi dresses
1x midi dress
2x kimono (one short and one long)
1x pair of jeans
1x thin trousers
1x large thin scarf
1x sandals/flip flops
1x swimming suit
1x Toms Shoes
1x canvas bag good for local food shopping
Zach's Packing List:
Week’s worth of underwear and socks
2x Shirts (in case we go somewhere fancy)
1x Swimming shorts
1x Closed toe shoes (Geox)
1x Flip Flops
1x Complete thermals
1x Thicker socks
1x Foldaway Waterproof Jacket
1x Quick Dry Towel (which got lost somewhere in the world and it’s impossible to replace it!)
0x Elephant pants - they are the worse! Don’t be that person.
HANNA'S TOILETRIES BAG:
- soap + face soap in a bar
(lasts super long!),
- hair shampoo,
- electric shaver for women
(two AAA rechargeable batteries),
- moon cup + some pads and tampons
(easy to buy around the world),
- face cream
(super difficult to buy it cheap in Asia and Africa, unless you want to spend 20 USD or you’re happy to choose the cheap skin lightening face cream…I wish I brought two small tubes of my face cream - they would probably last for about 6 months),
- baby wipes to remove makeup
(easy to buy everywhere),
(eyeliner, mascara, foundation),
- nail cutter
+ small nail polish + small nail polish remover,
- hair brush + hair elastics and hair pins,
- roll-on deodorant.
ZACH'S TOILETRIES BAG:
- dental floss,
- nail clippers,
- roll-on deodorant,
Random Items - These are all small travel size versions:
- Compact Hammock
- Roll-up Inflatable Sleeping Mat
- Power outlet convertors
(the more different ones you can take, the better - but you can also easily buy them everywhere you travel)
- Insect repellent with DEET
(you can get it anywhere but it’s hard to get a DEET one in Asia and Africa)
- Hand sanitiser
(easy to buy all over the world)
- Scrubba clothes washing bag
- LifeStraw bottle
- Single mosquito net
(generally not needed but several times we wouldn’t have survive without it, if you travel as a couple, we suggest getting a double mosquito net rather than two singles)
- 4x waterproof rollable bags
(we use two for dirty washing and two if we go on a boat and want to make sure our stuff doesn’t get wet or if we have smelly shoes that need to be stored away before we get a chance to clean them)
- First Aid Kit
(we use a small one but we also have a bigger waterproof bag filled with malaria pills, antibiotics and extra medications (read more about it in our Health & Safety travel resource section coming very soon!))
Pouches / bumbags
Apart from our two big bags & two day-packs, we also have a small pouch each (Hanna's one, Zach's one) that clips around our waists. They're not too stylish but always turn out to be very helpful especially at the airports or border crossings. We don't use them on a daily basis, but only when we travel on the bus/plane etc. We keep important things like passports, phones, id’s, etc. in them. We find these to be super useful and would never travel without them.
10 TIPS ON HOW TO PACK MOST EFFICIENTLY
1. Develop a system of packing that works for you. Pack your bag in a specific order. It doesn't need to make sense to anybody else, as long as it helps you to not forget! We give each other super judge-y looks whenever it comes time to pack our bags as we both think each other's way of packing is completely stupid and wrong hahaha...but we haven't really lost anything whilst moving from place to place.
2. Store heavier items at the bottom - avoid being top heavy
3. Put clothes in mesh bags to keep them together
4. Get as much as you can at the bottom of your bag - seriously force things in the bottom of your bag
5. When repacking to move to another place, it can be helpful to lay all your things out on a bed before putting things in your backpack. It is so frustrating when you pack something away in your bag and then you find one stupid item in your room that you forgot to put away and have to completely unpack to put it back where it belongs
6. Always keep a roll of toilet paper at the top of your bag (and baby wipes)
7. Use waterproof bags to store your dirty clothes - they stop your whole bag from stinking
8. If you are going to be somewhere for a few days, completely empty your bag and give it a chance to breath
9. Put multiple name tags with important info on, and in, your bag
10. Store liquids in sealable plastic bags (duh!)
FAVOURITE THINGS IN OUR BACKPACKS
LifeStraw drinking bottle - this makes any tap water safe to drink and drastically reduces the amount of plastic we take - we don't think we can ever travel without it anymore,
Sleeping bags - We have stayed at some average hotels and having our own clean sleeping bag helps to make them bearable (we use Jungle Bag Snugpak - we like it because it's super small and anti-bacterial and it has a hood with a zip away mosquito net built in - very useful at times!),
Elastic clothes line - This has been so handy for when we need to hand wash our clothes and then we can hang them in our room without worrying about them being stolen, or when there is no hook to hang a towel you can hang it on the clothes line.
THINGS WE WISH WE DIDN'T TAKE
Sleeping bag liners - super frustrating when you get into it and then into a sleeping bag, you wake up in the middle of the night strangled in this white sheet!
THINGS THAT WOULD BE AMAZING TO HAVE
International WiFi Router - having a reliable internet source is not only a good idea purely for safety reasons, but it can also save you so much money!
It doesn’t really matter how many packing lists you read or research, they will never be perfect for you. You will definitely take some things that you’ll never use and you will have to buy some things on the way. You quickly adjust to living with what you've got and find ways of getting around not having something. This post has been written to give you an insight into the way we travel and the things that make us feel comfortable on the road. We hope that we sparked an 'oooh that's a great idea' moment!
And one last bit of advice - embrace the minimalistic approach to life - it's refreshing.
Learn more about what's inside our Photo Backpack.