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How to pack for a RTW trip: 100-day update

Backpacks fully loaded for RTW travelOne of the things we stressed over most before we left was what to pack in our bags.

Hey, we even worried about what bags to buy to pack all that stuff.

So, almost 4 months into the trip, how did we fare with what we brought?

Smart choices

Without a doubt, our Ex Officio quick-dry underwear is a winner (his and hers). These are extremely comfortable in both hot and cold weather, and you can wash them out in the sink and have them dry by the next morning. It is always a chore to find laundry services in each new town on a long-term trip, and knowing we can quickly wash out our underwear every day in the shower or sink means we never have to worry about clean undies. You have no idea how important this will be on your own trip.

The next best thing is earplugs. It doesn’t matter where you stay, there is going to be some noise. It may be from the street, from people in your hostel, or even a buzzing fly or mosquito in your room. In fact, you may use them in the daytime to combat loud music on the bus or other similar situations. Packing earplugs can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and a bad memory of what should be a great place.

Last but certainly not least, we love our Steri-Pen for cleaning water. We often buy water, but sometimes we run out, or it is inconvenient or unavailable, and it is nice to run the water from the tap into our bottles, stick the Steri-Pen in, and have clean water in a minute. We both got sick at the beginning of our trip from drinking unclean water, and we can tell you this is NOT a fun way to lose weight.

Warren is a great photographer, and back in Seattle he used a DSLR camera with lots of accessories. He sold it and bought a small Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 camera for the trip. What he gave up in range with a zoom lens he more than makes up for in ease of use and the fact that he can bring it anywhere. If you bring a huge camera you will be too self-conscious to take it with you everywhere, plus it will add significantly to your baggage load. We’ve met several people on the trip who have had their cameras stolen, and we wanted ours to be easy to use and easy to hide when we weren’t snapping pictures.

All four of these things take up very little space in our luggage but make a huge impact on our enjoyment of the trip.

Standing up to wear and tear

Keanes with MothraOur Keen Voyageur shoes are holding up well to some pretty harsh abuse. They really only need a good rinse after trudging through the mud and muck, and after a lot of mileage they are still pretty comfortable.

Just before the trip I bought a Scottevest. This is a pretty cool item because it has tons of pockets that are fairly well hidden. You won’t look or feel like a fisherman in this vest, but you can carry quite a bit on you. I really only wear this on travel days, and it comes in very handy. I keep the essentials on me in case my bag gets lost – contacts, passport, a pair of underwear, etc. If I need to, I can actually pack the camera, iPad, sunglasses, iPod, hat, etc. in the pockets. You can learn more about this vest by watching the videos from Rolf Pott’s 6-week trip with just a Scottevest for luggage.

Hats are practical, but not always easy to pack. I have a straw hat I bought 10 years ago that rolls up nice and neat in the bag. I have worn this hat almost every single day of this trip, and you can probably find a similar one for well under $20. Don’t skimp on bringing a hat – believe me, you’ll need it. Warren bought a great “Indiana Jones” one at the Otavalo Market in Ecuador and wore it almost daily for 3 months. Unfortunately, he left it in the overhead bin on a bus a couple of weeks ago and has missed it ever since. His replacement hat folds up in his bag just like mine, which means he is far less likely to leave it behind again.

Didn’t last long at all

Some things just didn’t work out for a variety of reasons.

  • We gave up the laptop bag because it was too painful to carry with the large backpacks. We bought another small backpack which we wear on the front, and it is not quite ideal, but workable. We need a laptop because of Warren’s website work, but if you just want to stay in touch with friends and family on your trip, there are internet cafes everywhere and no need to bring your own laptop.
  • We ended up leaving several items behind because we lost a lot of weight or we found we weren’t wearing them enough to justify the space they were taking up. It is hard to know when you buy new clothes whether you will really like them long-term or not. Wear them before you go as a comfort test.
  • We bought several items of clothing with insect repellent/sunscreen built in. This may work for some people, but we find that they give off an odd odor when we sweat that is pretty unpleasant. Any benefit we get from the chemicals is far offset by how much we offend each other when wearing them.
  • The Ex Officio button down shirts we bought were very unflattering. They are boxy and always made us stand out in a crowd as “new travelers.” The longer we are on this trip, the more we just want to look like regular people.
  • The iPad was a dumb move. We sold my Kindle when we got it, and since wifi has been so weak in almost every place we’ve gone, the iPad has essentially become a very expensive book reader. Don’t overthink your electronics. Really, you can find internet everywhere you go, and having it is just one more thing we have to worry guarding from theft or breakage. (We are keeping it, though.)
  • Makeup was a dumb move, too. I’ve worn it 3 times since we left, and it just takes up room in the bag. I’m not sure why I’m still carrying it.

We should have packed

  • Warren in the rain

    Photo by Lea Tusseau

    Plastic rain ponchos that cover the backpacks as well. We both brought conventional rain jackets which we never wore, and they took up much more room than the folding plastic ones.

  • Better socks. Investing in the right kind of socks can mean the difference between enjoying an experience and feeling the pain of it for days afterward. Don’t skimp on good socks.
  • The really awesome Swiss Army laptop backpack Warren had in Seattle. It would have been much better than what we use now. RIP, Swiss Army bag.

Lessons on packing for a RTW trip

How does the saying go?

“Pack half as much as you think you need and twice as much money.”

We can vouch for that 100%. Don’t overthink what you need beyond the basics because you can buy almost everything you need in even the smallest town, usually at a lower price than you would find back home. Our biggest regrets have come from the extra things we brought, not the things we left behind.

We have both lost weight on the trip, and if you go from desk jockey to traveler you probably will, too. Count on the fact that you will have to replace your clothes as you go, either from wear and tear, the harsh local washing methods, or simply from weight loss. If you invest in expensive clothes, it will be harder for you to consider replacing them.

The other tip we would give is to make sure all your clothes coordinate so you can wear them in a variety of different ways. If they are a rainbow of colors it will be harder to make them mix and match to stretch your options. (I have a red jacket, an orange Scottevest, and tshirts that are purple, green and orange, so you can see that I speak from experience.)

Our future plans concerning our possessions include:

  • Getting smaller backpacks. Now that we’ve gotten rid of a few things, we see that we can have smaller bags.
  • Buying new pants/shirts/socks for our slimmer selves when we get to Lima.
  • Gloves for our upcoming trip to Antarctica (coats and boots are provided by Gap Adventures).

We’ll give you another update in a few months to see how our possessions are evolving to suit our needs.

If you’re on the road, what are some of your tips for packing for a RTW trip? If you are still in the planning stages, what questions do you have?

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About Betsy

Betsy Talbot can't live without a Moleskine notebook, her passport, and happy hour. She sold everything she owned to travel the world with her husband Warren in 2010, and she's been enjoying her midlife crisis ever since. Betsy writes about creating the life you want from the life you already have in her books and on the Married with Luggage website. Drop her an email at btalbot (at) marriedwithluggage (dot) com and check out her Google+ page.

Comments

  1. Thank you SO MUCH for the post. We are leaving next month for our year of travel and I have been totally stressing about what to take with us and what to get rid of before we leave so it was great timing for this post! Thanx!!

    • Congrats, April! We hope you have an amazing trip with less stress now that you know you can get almost anything you need while you are gone. No need to stress or overpack. :) Enjoy!

  2. What a timely post. We were looking at laptop packs the other day, unfortunately those that are big enough to carry my 15″ is big enough to carry all the other stuff I’m taking too (clothes, and what not). So — should I get 2 diff bags one for the laptop and the another for clothes? Or just one bag and leave the clothes behind when I’m taking the laptop to do work on a coffeeshop?

    What do I do when the bag needs to be separated from me for awhile (such as in a bus where sometimes they ask you to put your bag in the luggage area?) I wouldn’t want to be separated from my laptop.

    And oh, socks? Can I recommend Smartwool socks? That’s what we use for bakcpacking into the wilderness and they’re sooooooooo worth the price. No blister and no need for liners either.

    • Jill & Jack
      We just recently had to make a decision and I thought I would share what we did. (not that it is right for you, but I thought I could explain our logic) :) We had to decide on a bag for our camera, laptop, day bag, and purse. I was looking at an all in one bag that I could fit everything in. Obviously that bag was larger than our other option which is a bag that fits only our camera & baby gear, wallet, etc.
      After going to the store and trying them all on we decided on keeping them seperate. For the plain fact that if we want to go out into town we really don’t need our laptop. We will have internet at our home & can use internet cafes. We wanted to be able to fit in as much as possible. I know we are still going to stick out anyway, but maybe it won’t be quite as bad. For our laptop we are putting that in our carry on (will stay with us) and I am using our camera/daybag as my purse as well. It is small enough that it doesn’t look weird (all black too) and it is big enough to carry a very small wallet, cash, water bottle, diapers, juice, wipes and SLR Camera. I know that sound like a lot but with a family of 4 that is what we always have to have with us. :) I know you guys have a little different traveling needs than us. But I thought I would share. :) Happy traveling!

    • Hey, Paz and Jack-Jill, I’m glad to see we are not the only ones obsessing about this! :)

      It is actually really important to have a daypack to carry your essentials because you will be separated from your bag for many hours on a bus or plane sometimes. We carry the things that can’t easily be replaced with us – glasses/contacts, camera, electronics, as well as the things that will bring comfort on the bus, like snacks and a wrap.

      After you see your backpack strapped to the top of a bus in the pouring rain or thrown willy-nilly into the luggage compartment you will think twice about keeping a laptop or anything easily breakable in your main backpack.

      Another option if you are traveling with another person is to split the load of carryon items, which is what we do. It also doesn’t matter if your bag is large enough to carry the laptop and you decide not to on certain days – it is much easier to carry a larger bag with less stuff in it than to cram it all into a tiny bag.

      And thanks for the recommendation on the socks – we’re going sock shopping in Lima!

  3. Debb Whitlock says:

    It’s funny – even though I am still here in cheery ol’ Seattle – whenever I wear what I consider my “adventure wear” (clothing for everything from hiking to running or travelling) I think of you and our conversations about the clothes. The form vs. function idea is really important in preparing for a trip – even for a week.

    For me – I know the types of clothes I find most appealing for crossover activities are pants from Lululemon – great for hiking, walking, travelling – and even a night out – all in black – the stretchy durable material – no bind waistbands and drawstrings make them well worth the investment – though Lima may not have this particular store :) – the idea looking into the genre of Yoga clothes – they may great crossover pieces – can be durable and wash and dry with ease. AND keep you looking like the pretty girl you are without standing out like a freshly pressed traveler!

    Happy shopping!

    • This is a great tip, Debb. Yoga/exercise clothes are perfect for travel because they are tough, usually have that moisture-wicking feature, and hold up to repeated washings and rough usage. My favorite shirt on this trip happens to be a long-sleeved Nike one I bought at a running store over a year ago for $15 on the clearance rack. I threw it in at the last minute and am so glad I did because it is versatile and comfortable and still looks the same as the day we left, which cannot be said for most of my other clothes.

      We’ve seen lots of other travelers on this trip, and almost all of them have some type of yoga/exercise clothing (the women, anyway).

  4. Awesome advice – and yes, earplugs are one of the best inventions ever! I find too I don’t wear makeup when I travel, maybe at most lipgloss with a bit of colour (and built-in sunscreen). When travelling with our kids, I always make sure I have those little packlettes of moist-wipes (small, convenient and always needed!) and various sized ziploc bags.
    Just curious though, did you get sick in Ecuador at the beginning of your trip from water or food (did you use the Steri-pen?)? I’m also interested to find out how long the Steri-pen lasts as I know it’s a bit pricey. Thanks!

    • Plastic bags! Oh, I can’t believe we forgot to mention those. These are like gold. We pack our clothes inside the plastic bags. Like I said above, your bags can get wet/dirty from a variety of different things in travel, and knowing your clothes will stay clean and dry keeps you from obsessing about it. They are also perfect for protecting your camera on a rainy hike.

      And moist wipes are a necessity and can be bought at any little tienda on your trip. Not all bathrooms have paper, so always carrying a bit in your pocket or having wipes is a great idea. You’ll also get sweaty and gross, or your hands will get dirty, and this is a great way to stay clean. (Though I’m much less obsessed with this than I used to be…)

      In the beginning of our trip we had a miscommunication about the water in our first place. We thought we could drink from the tap and only found out later that we couldn’t. We ended up getting an infection of amoebas AND parasites. Yuck. So while we eat almost anything, we only drink bottled or Steri-Pen water now. (not sure how long it lasts, but it is so worth it – ours was about $90 at REI, and you can wait for their 20% customer appreciation sale to get it for less. We use it pretty frequently.)

  5. Thank you so much for this post. We are also getting ready to depart. One month from today actually. Crazy. I didn’t think about ear plugs. I might bring extras to hand out to people.lol Considering we are traveling with a 3 and 1 yr old.

    I am going to go out and get the Steri-pen today! We have been looking for one to get and I haven’t heard or seen any reviews from any of the blogs that I follow. Great job including this. We will be buying a lot of bottled water, but with little kids and very hot weather in Guangzhou I am sure that we need one.
    On a lighter note, I am glad to hear about the losing weight. (not that you needed to) We gained 15 lbs this year and our upcoming trip and added stress has not helped the waist line at all. So we have had to buy new pants just to have something to wear! I can laugh about it now, but last week it was not so funny.

    Also great points on the i-pad.

    thanks again, love reading, keep up the wonderful posts!

    • Hey, Paz. One month from today – how exciting! That last month is really a whirlwind, and it will be here before you know it.

      I hope you like the Steri Pen as much as we do – especially considering it takes up so little space.

      We also gained weight in the time leading up to our trip, but if you are anywhere near as active as we are (and we are not super-athletes), the change in scenery and your natural curiosity will wipe out those pounds in no time. We can’t wait to hear about your adventures!

  6. Oh how I LOVE that picture of you two hugging!!! Perhaps you can share your travel story one day soon on Yakezie.com in our Lifestyle vertical! We’re one of the biggest personal finance and lifestyle blog networks on the web.

    Best,

    Sam

  7. Hi guys, would you recommend the Ex Officio quick-dry garments on trips to places where you are more likely to find laundry services, or would you just go back to regular? I can see why you would do it where you are now, but if you could just launder everything, would you just do that instead if you could?

    And I have to add that earplugs are a must anywhere! Understanding trying to sleep in noisy placed, but if you just need to get some work done in peace (noisy workplace anyone?), then you gotta have them. To not look like a goob, I have some $20 noise isolating earbuds that I wear, and just stuff the plug in my front pocket. People think I’m listening to music, but really I’m just being anti-social so I can get some work done. The only one that knows that I’m a goob is me :)

    Really looking forward to your Antartica pics!

    • Brian, I love that trick! I used to do that all the time on planes or at work to get some time to myself. What is the brand name of your noise isolating ear buds? We’d like to check those out.

      We like the Ex Officio underwear for the breathability and wearability, too. Not to get too gross, but if you are going to be working out a lot or getting really sweaty or wet, these will dry even under your damp clothes. They are just made really well, and every little bit helps when you are pushing your boundaries. You’ll also realize that your clothes just go through a LOT of wear and tear on a trip like this, and the elastic and seams on regular underwear might not hold up as well. (I have one pair of “conventional” undies I was wearing on the day we left, and they are not faring so well.)

      We actually do get our laundry done frequently – we’re getting some done now, actually – but we don’t always have the time even if the resources are there (most places here air-dry clothes, so you have to drop them off in the morning and hope to get them late that day or the next, depending on whether it rains or not – which may not fit in your travel plans). I can wear “seasoned” pants and shirts without too much of a problem, but I refuse to wear my underwear more than one day at a time, no matter what the circumstances! :)

  8. I can totally back you up on having good socks! A sock shortage was our number one clothing problem on our trip. Buy more and buy often.

  9. What a great post, and I hope to refer to it someday.

    I hope the French earplugs were one of the “smart choices” you wrote about. :)

    Can’t wait to hear about Antartica!

    • Oh my gosh, the earplugs you sent are the best, Angela! We have those as well as a bulk package of “cheapies” and we alternate depending on the circumstances. I love not having to use earplugs, but unfortunately long-term travel doesn’t always guarantee a peaceful night.

      Tonight we will fall asleep to the sound of the ocean waves hitting the shore, but 2 nights ago the restaurant next door decided to host a night of live music until 4 a.m. Even in paradise, you sometimes need earplugs!

  10. Oh, and I forgot to say, I love the idea of your rainbow of bright colors. Let your rainbow flag fly, girl!

  11. Warren & Betsy,

    Mahalo for all the great “intel” :) we are starting the list for our own foray and think your insights invaluable (not to mention all the great comments!) While packing we rely heavily on ziplock and plastic bags; though those are getting hard to find here in the islands as they just passed a no plastic bag law, great for environment, tough on us travelers. Hey, if you guys are able to connect this way, bring some to barter with, they’ll be good as gold here! ;)

    Also, we hope to connect for a guest post or interview soon, our readers loved hearing about you; we’ve had several emails in addition to the comments and would love to further connect you to our growing tribe. You guys rock! Please consider us extended Travel Ohana (family), and let us know how we can further share your experience with others!

    • Gena, thanks for your kind words. It does sorta feel like a big extended family on this blog, and we love connecting with readers in email and in person when possible. We’d love to do a guest post or interview soon and we’ll email you to work out details after we return to civilization from Yungay in a couple of weeks.

      You know Seattle started a campaign to ban plastic grocery bags last year but it failed – I had no idea it would extend to ziploc bags, but I guess that is the natural conclusion. I hoard ours like crazy and reuse them every day – which is much easier when you never actually put food in them!

      • Betsy,

        You probably won’t get this until you get back so we hope this finds you two having had an amazing adventure! We look forward to your email and the details from Yungay.

        As an aside to the whole plastic bag thing; we don’t shop much being simpler living, slow travel oriented people, it’s just kind of counterintuitive. When we do shop it’s always interesting to see the sheer volume of *stuff* people buy; today friends of ours visited a store and had to chuckle when a dad loaded down with a huge variety of things, kiddo in tow, had to leave the store arms laden with his purchases, stuffed in pockets, child drafted into mule duty all because he had forgotten to bring his own bags. It’s a new day.

      • Gena, one thing we love about travel is that you can’t buy in bulk. Even now when we are staying in Lima for 3 weeks, we only shop for a couple of days at a time and never buy more than we can easily carry several blocks back to our place. We eat better and spend less money this way (plus we get more exercise).

  12. I travel with a 65L bag and wish I had gone with 45L. It’s manageable but I really don’t need that much stuff.

    Completely agree on the steripen. One of my best purchases ever as I try to rid myself of polluting each country with plastic.

    • Ayngelina,
      We are about to head to Lima and plan to explore the possibility of downsizing below the 65/67L packs. Not sure we are able to hit the 45L mark but love setting big goals. Glad to hear you think you can make it.

      BTW, will we get to meet you in Lima next month?

  13. Skott and Shawna says:

    Well hello Team Talbot….

    We were debating the Steripen, but I think your endorsement put us over the edge….we will almost certainly get one….saves $$ and a little bit of the environment as well. And as far as the underwear goes, we have our ExOfficio ready to roll….someone said three pairs, but I don’t think I am leaving this place without four or five (nothing like the feeling of fresh, clean undies)

    Just a question on the backpacks…what size did you take, and what size do you think you will replace them with?

    Cheers!

    • Hey guys. Great to hear from you again. As for the underwear I agree completely that 3 is not enough. Sure it is possible, but going a few days without HAVING to wash underwear is delightful and given how small they are I think it is worth taking a couple extra pairs.

      We have 65L (Betsy) and 67L (Warren) packs. We tested a lot of different options (backpacks, suitcases, roller bags, duffel bags, etc) and the REI bags we picked ended up the perfect fit for us. Plus, I was looking at them last week and it seems they are much cheaper now.

      If we do downsize we have not considered the size we would go with. Mostly we want to explore the options available now that we know how much stuff we are carrying and that we can look at smaller bags. My guess is they would be around 55L, but that is a guess based on the amount of empty space in the packs now.

      Hope that helps some.

  14. Great advice! I’ve never thought about a Steripen but recognise the benefits – no need to buy plastic bottles everywhere you go! Have you had any problems / got sick at all since you’ve been using it to clean your water?

    • No problems at all since we started using it/paying attention to our water sources. We’ve found that you can eat just about anything on the trip, but the water is the thing to look out for.

  15. I was planning on bringing my iPad with me on my upcoming trip in March and it is sad to see that you weren’t impressed with it. Was it just the weak wifi that you didn’t like? I bought one to replace my netbook which is very slow and compared with the iPad, heavy and cumbersome. I am wanting to cut down as much weight as I can. I will only be using it to access the internet, put my pictures on Picasa, use it as an ereader (I have books and magazines on it) and for playing a few games. Of course there will be movies, TV shows and music for plane rides and long bus rides.

    You are right about the ex-Officio tops looking boxy! I bought two shirts from REI’s outlet store and was slightly disappointed in the shape of it. Not flattering at all, and I don’t like the placement of the security pockets. Who would put them right on the chest? I tried putting my bank card and cash in there and you could easily see the shape of them! :)

    I agree Smartwools are the socks to buy. I have had many pairs for a few years and hike, backpack, travel in them. They still are in great shape. Great for both winter and summer as well.

    • Hi, Kate. We have not had good luck with wifi and the iPad in South America. I’m responding to you now on it, and it is working the best it ever has (probably because we are in a private apartment with wifi in a major city). I don’t think it is a bad choice for everyone, just a bad choice for us. If you are traveling in Europe or splurge for an internet plan instead of depending on wifi you might be okay. Also keep in mind that we rarely take the iPad outside our room and never on the bus. I hate having to be so security-conscious of it because it attracts far more attention than a laptop.

  16. Love these tips!

    Especially appreciate what you said about the Panasonic. We are having the same dilemma. We’re really concerned about lugging a big DSLR around, given the places we travel (“scary”) and the way we travel (crazy).

    Also, I think it’s time to get the Steri-Pen; we’ve just heard too many great things. Sounds like the perfect solution for our camping trips.

    Maybe we need to revisit Ex Officio. We did not have the same experience it sounds like you’re having.

    Keep on rockin’ your journey!

    • Hey NVR Guys. Warren is in love with his camera and has taken some amazing photos. The true test will be next month in Antarctica, so check back to see if he regrets not having a DSLR then ( i don’t think he will).

      We are not fans of all things Ex Officio (like the button-down shirts), but I think that is more style preference than anything. We are gung-ho undie fans, though! And the SteriPen is a must in my book, even if you never camp.

  17. I completely agree on the underwear, earplugs, and Steripen. All were crucial on our RTW trip. We did take our DSLR and didn’t regret it one bit, though we did have a point and shoot as well for the few situations where we didn’t feel comfortable whipping out the DSLR.

    As for bags, we each took a backpack, and then my husband also carried a Northface messenger bag, which held the computer, camera, tech gear, and other stuff we didn’t want to put under the bus or check at the airport. I just carried a small LL Bean Travel purse with my essentials in it. The messenger bag was a bit big (but no problem for my husband, though it would have been for me), but it worked out well in certain situations where we were venturing out for a short weekend trip or whatnot and we could leave our big backpacks at a hostel and just pack the few things we’d need for our short trip into the messenger bag.

    • Theresa, I think that’s key – having a small bag you can use as a daypack/overnight bag. Most hotsels/hostels will store your big luggage for little or no money while you venture out on short trips, which is a nice treat. My daypack actually zips onto the front of my big bag so it doesn’t take up much room when I’m not using it.

  18. Shelly Rae Clift says:

    Hey Betsy and Warren!
    I’m wondering about your backpacks. Are you roughing it enough that packs are the way to go? Did y’all consider a suitcase? I’ve used both but I sort of prefer the suitcase. Of course in my case I’ll be using bike panniers–hopefully with straps to carry like a backpack. Or at least that’s the plan this week.

    Looking forward to hearing/seeing your Antarctica adventures and expecting penguin photos.
    Anon

    • Hey Shelly Rae. We aren’t really roughing it, but in our experience backpacks are better. Those wheelie bags would be awful on all the cobblestone and dirt roads and narrow/broken-down sidewalks in South America, though I guess it would depend on where you are traveling and how much you bring. Our packs are not very heavy, so it is no problem to carry them the distance we do.

  19. Jacqueline and Sam says:

    Hello Betsy! My boyfriend Sam and I have recently come across your website, and we are totally enjoying reading about you and your husbands adventures! We have both traveled a bunch over the years and are just beginning to plan an adventure through eastern europe and down into africa (we plan to leave september 2011) and hearing all your thoughts on luggage is great! I’ve heard about the Steripen’s but it’s really nice to hear your personal account, I think we might really consider picking one up!
    I thought I’d share with you the one thing I would never travel without:

    A large thin scarf (kinda like a pashmina)

    I know it sounds so simple but I find it an invaluable asset to everyday traveling! It is so useful for so many reasons: covering your head (so many places require it), blanket, towel, seat cushion, privacy, warmth, shade, extra bag (tie it up), wash cloth, skirt, shirt…pretty much anything fabric can be made from that simple cloth. I’ve always traveled with at least one and they dry fast so it’s easy to keep clean!

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts on packing later on!
    Jacqueline (and Sam)

    • Great point, Jacqueline. I have a thin scarf and a heavier one and both are handy for their original purposes as well as doubling as towels, blankets, and head coverings. I use one or the other several times a week.

      Please keep in touch about your travels – we are likely heading to Africa around October.

  20. Samantha Dermot says:

    I’m a mountaineer and the concepts of mountaineering pretty much applies to long-term travelling. I travel a lot (may it be beaches, mountains, or anywhere) and one of the things I’ve learned is to travel light. I normally buy clothing that are light and durable such as items from North Face.

  21. Just want to say thanks for all the packing tips. I do have a couple of suggestions for you as well. Debra and I have been wearing WrightSocks in our travels, and most of the time in between, since 2003. They come in a variety of weights and purposes. Essentially, they’re a sock in a sock that works marvels in preventing chaffing, blisters, and provide excellent padding. Never been a fan of plastic rain ponchos so we’ve found layering helps in all but the most extreme cold. A breathable but 100% waterproof light outer layer and then just switch out the underlayers depending on temperatures seems to work for us. There are lots of fabulous technical garments available to accomplish it and most are quick dry when they need washing. Here, in Canada, Mark’s Work Wearhouse has been moving into some very nice and affordable clothing well-suited to travel.

    Love reading about your adventures and learning about the successes and challenges. Thanks for sharing. We’re approaching semi-retirement and are moving to the home we plan to retire in. We hope to hit the road ourselves in the next two or three years so keep on keepin’ on. We need guinea pigs to make all the mistakes so we don’t have to.

    Grant

    • One more thing to add. We bought 55L backpacks with built-in rain covers that roll up into a zippered compartment at the bottom of the bag. Excellent choice…G

      • Okay…okay. Last thing. We found hats made in Australia (Barmah) and New Zealand (Kiwi Classics) made of suede leather that are waterproof, wide-brimmed, and best of all can be packed flat are rolled into a small cotton sack sold with them. The Barmah is called a Squashy hat. We’ve worn them in everything from -20C to +30C and they’ve stood the test of time. I’ve had mine since the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

      • Squashy hat? It even sounds fun! Warren is on the lookout for a new hat since his Indiana Jones one got left on a bus. Adding it to the shopping list now…thanks!

      • That’s the main reason for the plastic ponchos – covering our backpacks and keeping the contents dry. Good point to just get a rain cover for the backpack. Thanks!

    • Grant, don’t call us guinea pigs…they eat them here in South America! :)

      Thanks for the tips on the socks. We are heading out this week to get new socks, gloves, and a few other items for our Antarctica trip and will look for the WrightSocks.

      Semi-retirement sounds like a perfect way of life to us – at any age.

  22. Hi Betsy (and Warren) – Found your blog through Meet Plan Go and have been following your blog for a few months now and this post is awesome, as are all of the comments. My packing list for my upcoming trip to South America just got a little bit longer! Thanks, and happy belated birthday – I saw those celebratory posts from Chiang Mai!

  23. Hi Betsy and Warren,
    What other brands for clothing would you recommend? We want to pack light on our next extended trip (3 weeks in NZ in Nov.). We’d love some guidance on recommended pants and top layers. We’d rather invest in a few good pieces that will stand up to extended travel than pack a lot of stuff.

    Many thanks in advance! Love your blog.

    • Hi, Amy. We like Ex Officio, Columbia, REI and Keane (for shoes), but really the main thing to look for is the material. You want clothes that will wick away sweat (I call this ‘exercise clothes material’), be relatively wrinkle-free, and easy to layer when you need to. We also like clothes that look like “regular people” clothes over travel clothes simply because you won’t always be on safari even when you’re on safari. :) You need fewer clothes than you think (I like a long-sleeve shirt, a few short-sleeve shirts, and a couple of tank tops), and getting shirts and pants/shorts/skirts that are color-coordinated will mean less laundry during your trip and many more options for wearing your clothes. Good luck, and enjoy your trip!

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