The questions have been asked and now the answers are here!
On the road for almost 6 months now, we’ve had a bit of practise at getting our packing method down to an art form rather than an insane level of Tetris. There is no stressing the night before or jumping up and down on the bags to get the zip to close. It just fits. That’s not to say we have skimped; we certainly have some luxuries in our kit, the little things each of us can’t live without that are completely optional whether you include them or not.
Quick note: There may be a couple of affiliate links in this post, which means that we may get a few cents if you purchase something through the link. We want to make sure some of our hard-to-find ingredients are reachable at the click of a button. If you have any questions feel free to contact us.
We recommend all long-term travellers out there to create a list as your first step. You can download the Wandercooks Packing List Template to get you started, we’ve even left a few spaces to personalise it.
So what exactly have we got on our backs for our year long travel? More importantly, what works and what doesn’t when putting together the perfect packing list?
(aka Your Home Away From Home)
One of the most important decisions you’ll make when planning an extended trip away is what to put your gear in. When deciding which pack to buy, it’s best to look for something that:
- is sturdy, durable, and is going to last;
- doesn’t add too much weight to your overall load;
- is suited to your body height and shape;
- is comfortable to carry for extended periods, and;
- allows your gear to be easily accessible when you need it.
We took our time looking at all the options out there and finally decided to invest in the Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack with matching day pack.
Altogether this is a much smaller set than we’ve seen many other travellers use. Yet it’s the perfect size to carry everything we need for our year of travel with a bit of room to spare. As travellers we don’t tend to pick up any souvenirs along the way so that’s not a concern for us, and we’re not tempted to stuff it with unnecessary items. Anything we do pick up along the way is usually posted home.
Admittedly we both carry one or two luxury pieces, but more about that later! 🙂
The best part is walking deftly across all kinds of terrain and leaving struggling suitcase travellers in our wake!
After over 5 months of constant use, we’ve decided the Osprey Farpoint 55 Travel Backpack is BRILLIANT (capitals absolutely essential). Here’s why we love it:
- A high quality waist belt and moulded back support* distributes the weight comfortably across your waist as well as your shoulders. Fully adjustable for that perfect fit.
- The straps can be tucked away inside a zip pocket meaning you don’t have to worry about anything damaging your belt or buckles in a cargo hold or storage racks.
- A wide opening across the length of the pack instead of at the top, so you can get to anything you need at any time. There is no need to go all Mary Poppins here.
- The zips of the main pack have been designed to be securely lockable with a travel padlock.
- Inner mesh pockets make for handy storage and help to organise your gear.
- Internal gear straps keep all your stuff neatly in place.
- The smaller size overall means we can use our main bags as carry-on when flying on smaller flights, even though technically it’s rigid internal frame makes it slightly longer than what’s ‘acceptable’ with some airlines.
- The 15L Day Pack can be zipped onto the main pack but we usually prefer to wear it on the front with the big bag on the back since it provides a good balance of weight (no leaning forwards or ruining our backs!). A laptop pouch at the back is a handy inclusion and two pouches on the front are great for drink bottles on a hot day. The top pouch is a perfect place for those items you need to get your hands on quickly, such as phones, keys or glasses etc, and when worn on the front it’s so convenient to be able to grab these things easily. Just promise us you won’t wear it on the front without your main bag, okay?! 🙂
* The key to wearing your bag comfortably for extended periods is to set it up properly for your individual requirements. Remember to adjust starting with the waistbelt first, then the shoulder straps, chest strap and finally the top rear straps to pull the load closer in to your centre of gravity.
Clothes for the Seasons
Listen up people, a girl can definitely have too many clothes! Trust us, you don’t need them. Less is more. Step away from that designer sweater and take a peek at our roaming wardrobe. What we have here has taken us comfortably through every weather situation from 3 degree rainy days in Japan through to 40 degree heatwaves in Europe.
This here is enough for a whole year of travel. In fact, it’s a little generous. Soon we’ll be heading to South East Asia and a few things such as jeans will be added to the post-home pile.
So what’s been the most useful item?
Our Ultra Lightweight Down Jackets from Kathmandu have been an incredible investment. With a fill rating of 550 these jackets are lightweight, compressible, windproof and really well insulated. They’re not just useful in winter though; they’re also small enough to keep in your day pack for those long public transport journeys in overly enthusiastic air conditioning (we’re looking at you Asia).
We both opted for slightly different styles of rain jacket. The first is ultra-slim and compresses down into a tiny pouch making it a very convenient size for travel. It stood up to the moderate rain we experienced while hiking in Southern Japan, which was great to see for such a lightweight jacket, but we’re still not sure how it will handle any torrential rain we might get caught up in.
The second is a much more heavy duty type, but unfortunately doesn’t breath all that well and doesn’t pack down to such a nice small size. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s really up to your preference but we recommend smaller and lighter is better for packing.
So without any further ado, here is our full multi-season clothing list.
- 3 x t-shirts
- 2 x shorts
- 1 x jeans
- 1 x hiking pants
- 1 x singlet
- 2 x bras
- 1 x sleep shirt and shorts set
- 3 x socks
- 7 x underwear
- 1 x waterproof jacket/shell
- 1 x down jacket
- 1 x dressy top (lux)
- 1 x jumper/sweater
- 1 x bikini set
- 1 x board shorts
Packing Cells & Containers
Packing cells are a great way to keep your gear organised, making it easy to find your bathers or a band-aid when you need them. Of course this does add a (negligible) amount to the overall weight of your pack, but the convenience factor more than outweighs it (pardon the pun!) in our opinion.
A compression ‘stuff sack’ is a brilliant way to condense everything down, and we highly recommend one. We each have a 15L sack and they are still going strong after 5 solid months of use. Pretty impressive since they’ve been known to fit all our clothes, underwear, jackets, sleeping sacks and more.
See if you can pick a few of these things up when they go on sale. You won’t regret it!
Packing Cells & Containers
- 1 x 15L compression stuff sack
- 1 x large double sided packing cell
- 1 x small packing cell
- 1 x toiletries bag
- 1 x medicine bag
- 1 x accessories bag
- 1 x electronics bag
- 1 x food bag*
*Being Wandercooks, it’s impossible for us to travel around without some food-related luxuries, more about that below 🙂
This looks like a lot of stuff but thankfully everything packs down nice and neat into a toiletries bag. As mentioned we save on weight by sharing most items apart from sanitary supplies.
Speaking of which. Guys…? Just look away for the next two paragraphs okay? There are just some things guys are lucky not to need to worry about when travelling, if you get what we mean!
Okay ladies, that time of the month is never something anyone looks forward to, especially when travelling. Something that’s made our lives much easier while we’ve been away is the Diva Cup. These are convenient for lots of reasons, not to mention reducing land fill. We’ll be honest and say they do take some getting used to, but master the technique in the months leading up to your trip and you won’t want to turn back.
We also each decided to invest in what we have dubbed the ‘pee sticks’ – anticipating some questionable toilet environments along the way. So far we haven’t had to use them but it’s nice to know they are there in case of an emergency! Lots of research led us to choose the Whiz Freedom brand as it was the outright winner in terms of flexibility, length and erm…hardness, it’s all about the ease of use here guys. Anyway – moving along!
Toiletries List (in no particular order)
- 1 x pack cotton buds
- 1 x stick deodorant
- 1 x perfume
- 1 x razor & refills
- 1 x nail clippers
- 1 x tweezers
- 1 x hand cream
- 1 x pumice foam or stone (lux)*
- 10 x hair bands
- 1 x mini tissues
- 1 x 50ml shampoo
- 1 x 50ml conditioner
- 1 x cetaphil cleanser (lux)
- 1 x foundation (lux)
- 1 x mascara (lux)
- 1 x eye-liner (lux)
- 1 x nail scissors
- 1 x mirror
- 1 x pack bobby pins
- 10 x backup tampons
- 2 x packs liners
- 1 x toothpaste
- 1 x toothbrush
- 1 x sunblock
- 1 x moist wipes
- 1 x hand sanitiser
- 1 x diva cup
- 1 x whiz freedom
*After 5 months of travelling and many days spent in open footwear, the miles take their toll on the feet. This is where the pumice stone is very handy and we’re glad it’s at our disposal.
This is another pack we obviously share, and one we’ve been fortunate to rarely need to open. Paracetamol and band-aids are about the most used items from the below list, but the others have all been carefully chosen so they are at hand in case the worst happens.
Our list includes a number of prescription items that were recommended to us by a travel doctor. For your own health and piece of mind it’s a good idea to visit one before you leave to discuss what you might need on your particular journey.
- malaria tablets
- oral rehydration sachets
- period pain relief
- norflaxin – antibotics
- tiger balm
- eye wash
- eye drops
- bug repellent
- thrush cream and tablets
- alcohol swabs
- antiseptic powder
- bandage tape
Having some enclosed shoes has come in very handy for us while hiking and travelling in cold environments, but time will tell if we decide to send them home once we reach South East Asia. Thongs (or should we call them flip flops??) always come in handy, especially when going into hostel showers.
Have small feet? Lucky you! It will be even easier to store your shoes in your bag when you don’t need them, but we’ve seen plenty of other travellers carry their shoes on hooks outside their bags. This is easy enough to do with the Osprey bag we chose as well paired with a carabiner or two.
- waterproof keen sandals
- hiking merrels
- thongs or flipflops
Okay stop rolling. This is where our packing list is sure to differ from other travellers, especially those who opt for reducing weight wherever possible.
We’ll just leave this picture here and give you a moment to take it in.
Wandercooks is our labour of love but it does come with a price. We’re carrying a laptop each so we can maximise our downtime working on articles, researching our destinations and demystifying all the transport options available out there. We did, however, reduce the number of cables as much as possible; the laptops, cameras, kindles, and phones all share mostly the same charger cables or adapters where possible.
Phones are a necessary evil when it’s just two girls travelling alone. Having access to offline maps, internet and emergency calls if needed helps set our minds at ease.
Our Garmin Vivosmart wristbands are a luxury item but a fun one! With these we can track our steps every day for bragging rights (we’re most proud of our 31,500 step day wandering around South Korea). They are waterproof, show the time and date and have an inbuilt silent alarm. They’re also nondescript, since they look like an ordinary wristband rather than a valuable piece of electronics to be stolen.
- canon camera and lenses
- camera charger
- phone and charger
- 2x travel adaptors
- ASUS T100 laptop
- Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 laptop
- GoPro and accessories
- SD cards and micro SD
- Garmin Vivosmart watch/pedometer
- external harddrive
- dropbox account
And yes… one of us is carrying a travel size hair dryer and straightener! Easy omitted for those who are happy to do without, but ours have been used quite frequently for those times when we’ve wanted to feel or look a bit nicer.
These are the extra pieces that make our lives just a bit more comfortable while out on the road.
A personal favourite is our elastic washing line, which you can use to hangup clothes in your hostel/hotel room and which doesn’t require pegs.
- playing cards
- washing line
- travel plug
- silk sleep liner
- laundry bag
- laundry soap
- pack cover
- 6 x carabiner hooks
- 2 x TSA locks
- ear plugs
- passport and holder
- business/contact cards – cheap for every day use, and professional for clients we meet
What would the Wandercooks be without our travelling kitchen? While we don’t carry the equivalent of a full-stocked pantry (thank god), what we do have is enough to bring delicious flavour to an otherwise bland meal.
We’ll be sharing more tips soon about travel cooking so make sure you stay tuned! In the meantime here are the basics.
Our Basic Wandercooks Kitchen Supplies!
- chopsticks (lux)
- poly plastic cutlery
- pocket knife / bottle opener
- magic salt
- garlic salt
- dashi stock
- rice seasoning
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
What we’ve listed above is everything that has made it through this whirlwind six months of travel. Even with extensive research, there were a few items we felt weren’t as necessary as we thought and have since made the trek home or are walking a fine line. While on the other hand, there are a couple of surprises we’ve picked up along the way that have proved invaluable.
Pocket Knife – This has been amazing. Allowed through customs, this little tool from a dollar shop in Japan has been a lifesaver. It includes a knife, flat head screwdriver, corkscrew and bottle opener. It has proved extremely useful – even to remove a security tag left on some newly purchased shoes in Italy after we discovered the mishap in the next country!
Headlamps – Heralded as a must-have on a few lists, we only used these once and for the bulk they bring with them you are better off using your phone’s torch function instead. Of course, this doesn’t apply in a serious emergency situation, but depending on the type of travel you are planning they may not be necessary.
Charger cords – These can add to your weight very quickly. Cut down where possible and utilise chargers that use the same power. For example our 2 pin power cord can charge our laptop, camera battery and usb charger adapter; therefore also being able to charge our kindles, phones and other laptop. Kapow!
Clothes – We have a rule with clothes – at the end of each month if we haven’t worn them they get the boot. We can’t stress enough here that less is more. We don’t need a separate top for every day of the week. Learn to mix and match while taking advantage of laundry opportunities as they become available.
The Ugly – Forgetting to put your shampoo in a plastic bag and having it leak through all of your toiletries. Don’t forget the simple things, as it can save you a lot of time. Although to be fair, we did end up with a squeaky clean bag. 😛
So that’s it! Our travel life in a bag. Yep, everything above fits nicely into our bags, all organised so we know where everything is and can grab anything out in a pinch. And although we know this list can, and probably will, be reduced in the coming months we can safely say that we are happy with the current items on us, nor have we missed anything from back home.
Hiking up to the viewpoint in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy.
What do you think? Where will you go and what will you bring? Tell us your awesome gear recommendations and must-have items you just can’t live without. Also, don’t forget to download our Packing List Template to ensure you have all the good stuff on your next adventure.