So, what do you need to bring on a 2 year long-term travel journey? Bryan and I took our best guesses at what we would need/want abroad based on other people who had done similar trips before us. I also considered what I had learned from my 6-week backpacking trip to Europe back in 2012. A year later, after refining packing our packs several times, we think we have our packs perfectly suited for us. Who knows, though, the next year it may change all over again! Anyways, we thought it would be interesting to those at home and our future older selves to list everything we carry on our backs to each destination. I’ve included links to my favorite items (that aren’t discontinued), and no, we don’t make any money if you decide to purchase these items, we just like sharing.
Bryan and I each carry a large backpack on our backs and a smaller daypack on our fronts. We look quite comical on travel days, but it’s also cool to think we can carry everything we need in one trip!
Lauren’s Big Bag
1 Osprey Waypoint 85 Liter bag (I think this bag is discontinued)—When shopping for this bag, I knew I wanted a front loading bag, where the main compartment opens up like a suitcase making it easier to pack and organize. I also love that it has a separate shoe compartment to keep dirt out of my main compartment. There aren’t any other compartments, so I only need 2 locks to secure my bag. The backpack straps can also be hidden by a zippered panel, streamlining the pack for airplane travel. We use packing cubes to easily organize our bags, from companies like Eagle Creek and Ebags.
1 Osprey Rain Cover—At some point or another, your bag will be in the rain. From walking to your hotel, to having your bag on top of a bus with no tarp to cover it, to the Indonesian airport that left your bag in the heavy rainstorm before they loaded the bags on the airplane.
1 pair hiking boots
1 pair tennis shoes
1 pair Chacos—I loved these sandals. They’re perfect for hiking and just walking around. After 8 years of intense wear, the bottom portion of the soles separated, and I couldn’t save them. RIP. I’ll be getting a new pair in New Zealand for sure. I think mine were the Women’s Z/2 Classic. Update: New Zealand doesn’t have Chacos…The search for new hiking sandals begins…
1 pair Teva flip flops—These flip flops are comfortable and stay on because of their double straps. I bought a new pair right before we left and they’re still going strong.
1 pair shower shoes—Not all hostels have the cleanest of showers. I bought a slim minimal pair of shower shoes that barely take any space in my backpack.
Toiletries and Shower Gear
Toiletries Bag—to organize all your stuff!
1 travel towel and washcloth—Perfect for camping and hostels where towels are not provided. Quick dry is a must for travel days when you shower and pack up in the same day!
Tons of eyedrops—A year before we left, I had LASIK and had issues with dry eyes. I ended up getting my tear ducts partially plugged with punctate plugs to solve the problem, but they can fall out, leaving me susceptible to dry eyes again. I have eye drops in case my dry eye comes back!
Q-tips—cotton swabs in some countries are either nonexistent or shaped strangely. We have a stash for such times.
Electric toothbrush + charger—Our preference is Oral B Pro 1000, with the round rotating toothbrush heads. Bryan convinced me to try an electric toothbrush just before we left, and I have never been able to get the same clean feeling with manual toothbrushes since. It’s definitely one of those luxury items we choose to have. We found replacement toothbrush heads were available in Europe and Southeast Asia.
2 extra toothbrush heads for our electric toothbrush—We share the same toothbrush, but have different toothbrush heads…we’re not THAT couple…yet…
Tongue scraper—I became obsessed with this thing after my last dentist visit. It’s weird, but I love how my mouth immediately feels fresher.
Retainers—I had braces waaay back in middle school, but I remember asking how long I’d have to wear retainers at night for once I got my braces off. The answer was forever. Here we are 15 years later and I’m still rocking my polka dotted retainers at night!
Multi-vitamins—Some places we stay we aren’t able to cook or have availability to a variety of foods I’m used to, so we take multivitamins to make up for any nutrient deficiencies that may happen
Vitamin B12 & Vitamin D
Random other pills—such as ibuprofen, Excedrin, and malaria medicine
Pill Organizer—a cool find from the Container Store!
Hand cream—I have notoriously dry skin in the winter. Like my knuckles will crack and bleed if I don’t consistently moisturize. Normal hand creams just don’t cut it. This is the only hand cream I’ve been able to find that I only have to apply one a day.
Bar soap—lasts longer than liquid soap
Shampoo and conditioner
Argan oil—I got this in Morocco and use it in my hair every other night
3 oz tubes for liquids—Usually when we’re about to fly we empty any big bottles of shampoo/conditioner/lotion/soap/sunscreen into these tubes we found at the Container Store. They have a built in label system you can use to differentiate the bottles.
Serum—Gotta keep up my skincare routine! I usually put Oil of Olay Regenerist serum on at night
Face cream with sunscreen—I use this after I wash my face in the morning. Oil of Olay Total Effects Moisturizer with SPF 30
Deodorant—Not about that stinky backpacker life
2 travel size hair brushes—I have a hard bristle brush and a soft bristle brush. My plastic bristle brush is slowly breaking, so I’ll eventually throw it out.
Pre moistened makeup remover pads—Love this Almay brand because it’s gentle on your eyes (and hypoallergenic) and strong enough to remove waterproof mascara
Bag balm chapstick—my new favorite brand of chapstick for winter
Diva cup—I wasn’t sure what the tampon situation was going to be abroad, so I went the Diva Cup route and love it!
A handful of panty liners—Lady thing
Handful of hair ties—because they always seem to disappear
4 razors—some places we’ve only found 2 blade razors—yikes! I like having a stash of my favorite razors on hand
Waterproof shell pants—We got these in Glasgow for the West Highland Way. They are a thin waterproof shell you can wear over your hiking pants
1 winter poofy jacket—from LL Bean. Mine is good for colder temperatures than Bryan’s because I get cold easier. It also has windproof and waterproof panels on the hood, sleeves, and back. It all zips up into a pocket, and I put it in a 5L stuff sack to really compact it!
1 rain jacket
1 lightweight running jacket
1 pair lightweight winter gloves
1 beanie for winter
2 pairs workout shorts
1 khaki shorts
1 pair all purpose quick dry shorts
1 pair yoga shorts
1 hiking skort
5 tank tops
1 travel dress
1 pair PJs
Moderate to Cold Weather
3 capri length pants (2 yoga and 1 pair culottes)
4 long sleeve shirts
1 pair cold weather running leggings
1 pair jeggings—I love these jeggings from Athleta. They were a splurge, but have not ripped or lost their shape and are extremely comfortable to walk around in all day and night.
1 pair hiking pants
1 one-piece bathing suit
3 sports bras
1 normal bra
1 strapless bra
8 pairs undies
5 pairs running socks
3 pair light to medium weight hiking socks
1 pair ski socks
Old broken purse—This used to be my main purse until the strap broke—I now use it to carry old debit cards/credit cards
2 sarongs/scarfs—Good for a quick cover up when you’re going into religious places with a conservative dress code
1 hoo-rag—when biking around dry and dusty Angkor, we used these to filter out some of the dust we were breathing in.
1 bracelet—I rarely wear jewelry, but if I’m feeling fancy, I’ll put on this bracelet
1 wedding band—For safety reasons, I left my engagement ring at home and only wear my simple wedding band.
Electronics & Accessories
1 headlamp—USB rechargeable, perfect hands free flashlight
1 old school ipod shuffle and charger—Does anyone remember the tiny iPod shuffle that could clip on to your clothes? I still have mine because it’s perfect for running (I hate having a big clunky phone to carry. I haven’t changed the songs on here since 2013, but I still love my running playlist on here!
3 pairs backup buds for headphones
2 USB phone chargers
Things That Make Hostels and Travel Days Comfortable
2 TSA luggage locks—for when I check my big bag
1 Master Combination Lock—perfect for hostel lockers
1 bottle disposable earplugs—the reusable ones never work for me, so I have a bottle of the disposable spongey ones that work like a charm when your roommate comes stomping in at 3 am after the pub closed. You won’t hear a thing
1 eye mask—These look a little goofy, but I don’t care because they block out all light, are domed so my eyelashes aren’t crushed, and have a wide soft strap to avoid hair crimping
1 eye compress—Another strategy to relieve dry eye, plus the warm compress is relaxing
1 camp blanket—My dad got us each a blanket that is ultralight, surprisingly warm, and compresses very well. We’ve actually used these more than I thought as there have been quite a few places without enough bed covers!
1 stretchy laundry line—My mom found this for me before my Europe trip. Sometimes we do a small load of laundry in a hostel bathroom and need to hang our clothes up in our room. This is perfect for that or anywhere that doesn’t have enough hanging space. There are tons of brands that look the same, so I linked one that looks similar in design to the one I have.
1 10L dry bag—This bag has multiple uses. We use it to keep our belongings dry when we’re doing something water-related. We also use it to wash our clothes when we don’t have a washer available! Just fill it with a few clothes, laundry detergent, and water, seal it, and wash!
2 reusable grocery bags—We acquired these in Europe where many grocery stores have banned plastic bags, and now we carry them everywhere to continue this practice!
1 reusable travel mug—I got this in London when we went for a delightful afternoon tea on an old double decker bus! I haven’t used it yet, but it’s too cute to give up!
1 reusable coffee sleeve—made by my friend, Grace. This coffee sleeve is not only cute, but eco-friendly!
1 reusable water bottle—1 Liter water bottle that folds into itself allows for less awkward packing! In countries where tap water is potable we use our bottles to eliminate plastic bottle waste.
1 Watergate—After one too many times of accidentally splashing myself while drinking from the wide mouth water bottle, I bought this insert that makes drinking easier.
1-1.5 L water bottle carrier—In Southeast Asia, the tap water is not safe to drink, so we have to buy bottled water. We carry 1.5 L water bottles in this over the shoulder carrier we got from Elephant Nature Park. We buy giant jugs of water and refill the 1.5-L water bottles
1 tube Shoe Goo—This miracle goo repaired the soles of my hiking boots. They also extended the life of my Chacos. Worth the space when you’re on the road!
1 wrist wrap—I got into a motorbike accident in Bali and sprained my wrist. My wrist isn’t 100% healed yet, so I use for support on travel days where I know I’ll be handling my heavy bags
1 yoga mat—I bought this in Bali because I’ve been attempting daily yoga (although it’s on hold until my wrist heals)
Pumpkin seeds—a little snack I’ve been carrying with me lately
Salt and pepper grinders—I cannot tell you how many places we’ve stayed in that I have to buy something as basic as salt. We just started carrying some with us
Kala namak—Indian black salt that makes scrambled tofu taste like eggs
Nutritional yeast—a vegan cheesy sprinkle fortified with B12
This pack came with my Osprey big bag. I always have this pack as my carry-on whether we’re taking a boat or a plane to our next destination. Because of that, I pack it with our most important valuables, so I never have to worry too much about if somehow our checked luggage gets lost.
Electronics & Accessories
Universal adapter/surge protector—Thanks to my dear friend, Grace!
Power strip/surge protector w/ 3 plugs and 2 usb ports—for when you have multiple things to charge
1 TB external hard drive—to backup our photos and videos onto
Jackberry external battery
2 Surface Pro tablets + chargers
2 mice for Surfaces that lay flat
USB chargers and plug
1 pair headphones—We haven’t caught onto the wireless earbuds trend, but I do love my Bose headphones because they’re water resistant (for running in the rain) and they purposely are not noise cancelling so you can be aware of traffic around you.
1 SD card to USB adapter
1 micro SD to SD card adapter
2 Peak RFID blocking low profile money belt (we use these to store our important documents)
Passports & copy
Marriage certificate copy
International driver’s licenses
Backup/old credit/debit cards
Change from a few countries
Brochures/pamphlets we keep
Old sim cards
1 purse (Prague Christmas Market)
2 resuable steel straws + brush—We got these in Southeast Asia after seeing how excessively they hand out plastic straws
1 pair cheap-ish sunglasses—I lose my sunglasses way too often to buy an expensive pair like Bryan’s, but they do have good sun protection!
Credit/debit cards—Charles Schwab is a great debit card to have as they reimburse all ATM fees! We also use our Bank of America Travel Rewards card quite often to gain points.
Journal—I try and make a habit of journaling to remember details of our trip. Sometimes entries are extremely detailed, and other times I’ve made quick bullet lists or even just jotted down random ideas/thoughts I’ve had. Photos are great, but they only capture part of the story.
4 pens and replacement ink—Having different colored pens makes journaling more fun!
Current Book = First They Killed My Father—This book was sold to us by a homeless war veteran and tells of the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia and one woman’s experience. She was a young girl during the war, so I like that she has written it in the perspective of a child rather than as an a woman remembering. I always have a book on hand to read in my down time.
Keys from home
Heineken pin—from that time I beat Bryan in a draft pouring competition
FirstAid kit—bandaids, Neosporin, ibuprofen
PADI Diving Log books—to keep track of all the fish and sea life we’ve spotted on our dives
2 recipe booklets—1 from a Thai cooking class and 1 from a Balinese cooking classes
1 photo from white water rafting in Bali
Bryan’s Big Bag
1 Osprey Fairpoint 80 Liter bag - The selling point for this backpack for me is the flap that zips up to hide the backpack straps away for when you check your bag. Also the Osprey all mighty guarantee is a nice bonus as they will repair or replace your bag if you get any holes or rips from use. The bag has held up great and only has a couple very small holes from when the one time I put Lauren’s camera tripod in my pack and checked the bag for a flight. Packing cubes are an absolute must!!!! I would lose my mind without them.
1 REI Universal Pack Rain Cover—Like Lauren said precipitation happens when you least expect it. Flying from Lombok to Flores I made fun of her for putting her rain cover on her pack saying they have covers on the luggage carts it won’t get wet. It was I who had to tear my whole pack apart to air dry everything after my pack was evidently left on the tarmac during the two hour torrential downpour that delayed our flight.
1 pair Salomon hiking boots—These have been my absolute favorite pair of boots I have ever owned. Bought them in 2013 for the Inca trail and they are still in fantastic shape. Also highly recommend the Superfeet insoles available at REI.
1 pair tennis shoes
1 pair Teva Sandals
1 pair Flip Flops
Toiletries and Shower Gear
1 quick dry travel towel
Toiletries Bag—I love this particular bag because of how flat it is even when packed full of stuff. I think it makes it so much easier to fit in my pack.
Electric razor and accessories
3 extra toothbrush heads for our electric toothbrush
Lip balm - 3 different types apparently…
Dental night guard—I grind my teeth at night…..I wish I knew why
Vitamin B12 & Vitamin D
Zicam—We stocked back up during both pit stops back home. You can’t find good cold stopping stuff like this abroad.
Liquid bandage (New Skin) - Never realized how much cool over the counter stuff we have in the good old US of A until others have ogled our goods. Cherish our self medicating liberties by visiting your local CVS
Pill Organizer—a cool find from the Container Store!
Bar soap & travel container
3 oz tubes for liquids—Because we consistently have to check our big bags I have not found much use for them. Great if you plan to carry your bag on the plane.
Deodorant—Happy wife happy life
Fingernail and toenail clippers
Eye drops for allergies
Cold & flu meds
Gas-X - Happy wife happy life
Waterproof shell pants—These were a lifesaver on the West Highland Way and have also proved useful when volunteering at the dog and horse rescue to save our pants from getting dirty beyond the point of saving.
1 winter poofy jacket— We got these because they packaway into their own pocket and they are synthetic not down filled. Important because if down gets wet it can ruin it and typically down jackets are dry clean only. Our jackets are machine wash safe and although mine is not waterproof it does great in the rain and dries incredibly fast.
1 rain jacket - Again LLBean, but that is only because it is the rain jacket I have had for years in my closet
1 pair lightweight winter gloves
1 beanie for winter
3 quick dry t-shirts
1 cotton t-shirt
1 sleeveless shirt - from a bar crawl on Koh Tao
3 pairs of shorts
1 swimsuit that doubles as shorts
Moderate to Cold Weather
2 pair quick dry REI pants - I sought out these pants specifically because of the secret zipper pocket inside the front pocket. Makes a great place to keep my wallet so I don’t have to worry at all about pick pockets. The pants are very versatile and a little bit stretchy which makes them super comfortable and they are much lighter than a pair of jeans!
1 long sleeve shirt - I’ll buy a couple more when it gets cold like we did in Ireland
1 lightweight spring/fall pullover hoodie
1 pair of sweatpants
1 pair Underarmour long sleeve top base layer - for cold weather running or hiking or snowboarding!
1 pair Underarmour leggings base layer - for cold weather running or hiking or snowboarding!
European spedoesque style swim suit - It’s a requirement in some European countries to wear one if visiting a public pool.
6 pairs of SAXX Underwear - Seriously only ever wearing this underwear for the rest of my life it’s so comfortable. No not like that I’ll buy more pairs when were done traveling!
3 ankle height Wright Socks - This brand may also be my forever brand for socks. They are breathable and have two layers to the socks to prevent blisters. I frequently get blisters when hiking and these socks really do work to prevent them.
3 low cut Wright Socks
1 pair thin knee high socks
Garmin Vivosport - It has been fun knowing our step count each day especially when we were on hikes like the West Highland Way. Also tracks sleep patterns and has GPS so we can track activities. It’s fun to look back at the history too and be able to say that over the last year we walked a total of 2,287 miles. Fell a little short of our goal for walking the equivalent to the distance across the US, 2,800 miles. Maybe this year!
Baseball cap US
Things in My Black Travel Cube
I re purposed the case my electric razor came in to store a bunch of my small stuff for easier access
Multi tool—If you need to question this then you don’t know me.
Compact can opener
Plastic playing cards
Left Right Center Game - we have yet to play it…it’s a lot of fun with a big group
Decoy wallet—extra wallet to carry whenever we don’t get a good vibe in a new place. Rarely use it because we rarely felt unsafe but it’s a good thing to have so you can hand it over if your ever in that situation. I stocked mine with old expired credit cards and I’ll throw some local currency in it too just to make sure it looks like the real deal.
2 extra USB phone chargers
2 reusable spoon & fork utensils
Car USB charger
1 Master lock
Headphones for running
Misc. user manuals
Alligator bag clips
1 eye mask—A must for hostels and travel days
1 camp blanket—Super compact down blanket that has come in handy on multiple occasions
2 Inflatable neck pillows—I finally convinced Lauren to get one of these after she had lost 2 of the bulky neck pillows on the road. We sewed buttons on them to snap the front together making for much better head support! So funny because now they come with straps in the front to snap together…we should have contacted them with our idea!
KT Tape—This stuff works like magic on my knee. Super versatile too we were putting it all over our legs and feet on the West Highland Way to help with aches and pains.
LifeStraw—just in case
Sawyer water filtration system—got this for the Annapurna hike in Nepal
Spanish grammar book—my studying is not going so well….
Book on stock market investments—figured I might as well try to learn something important while traveling and it has helped my understanding quite a bit.
2 beer cozies—Thanks Melanie and Tom!
Elastic band for exercises
Cable bike lock
Mini roam roller for muscles
Running arm band for phone
2 Pairs of chopsticks
Sushi rolling mat - we finally got tired of using innovative ways of rolling sushi on the road. In a pinch you can use tin foil to roll your sushi!
1.5L water bottle carrier
Sectioned Abonnyc backpack with movable sections - this backpack has been great because of how we can tailor the compartment to our needs
Cameras & Accessories
Nikon 10-24 mm DX lens + rain guard
Nikon 55-200 mm DX lens + rain guard
Nikon 18-55 mm DX lens
Nikon D5200 DSLR camera + charger
Camera lens cleaning kit
Puffer thingy - to clean camera internals
Rhodes microphone and wind proof cover
Camera user manual
GoPro Hero 5 Session
GoPro 30 m depth underwater case
Chesty for GoPro
Floating GoPro handle with shell and Rock collection inside
1 Proline tripod
Garmin InReach GPS - a thoughtful gift from a friend to keep us safe in remote areas
Current Book = Washington Black
V60 and coffee filters—While in Europe after a few months of terrible instant Nescafe and Americanos (watered down espresso…), we sorely missed the pour over coffee we used to make in our Chemex. We finally decided to buy a V60 plastic coffee dripper and associated coffee filters. Since then, one of the things we look forward to in each new place is searching out the best beans, although our favorite is still Hawaii’s Hula Daddy coffee.
2 large carabineers - These have come in handy many times especially when hanging a clothes line
1L reusable water bottle
Moleskin blister pads
1 pair croakies
In My Pockets
Key chain with reusable metal toothpick—If anyone knows me, they know I grab a toothpick after every meal. The thought of being in a situation without a toothpick available led me to buy this one, and it has been used countless times
Coin purse from Ireland
Other Things to Note
What about skiing? We bought more socks and heavy-duty gloves for skiing, and rented snow pants, heavy winter coats, and ski gear. Afterwards, we mailed the socks and gloves home, along with the many postcards we had been collecting!
What else did you buy and get rid of? We also bought cheap sweaters (and Bryan bought a warmer jacket) for November-January in Europe. We donated those clothes before we left for Thailand. Lauren bought some warm weather conservative clothes for our trip to Morocco. We sent a majority of those home afterwards.
What did you initially bring that you ended up not needing/wanting? Lauren scaled down the amount of clothes she had, but the 2 obvious ones were her fleece UVA vest and a sun hat. As much as she wanted to be a sun hat wearing girl—she just isn’t.
What is one thing you ended up adding to your packs that you didn’t have initially? Lauren bought a pair of shorts that could be dressed up or down. She was missing her jeans shorts in Europe, but needed something less bulky and quick dry. REI came to the rescue! We both added a V60 coffee maker and filters to our pack because we became tired of espresso-based drinks and even worse, the dreaded instant Nescafe! We enjoy seeking out coffee shops and roasteries with high quality coffee beans. Bryan also had some fun at REI and bought some quick-dry sleek hiking pants that could also be worn to a nice restaurant.