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How do you pack for a trip around the world?

How do you pack for a round the world, multi-year trip? We don’t think there’s a definitive answer to this questions, but we’re going to tell you how we did it.

To begin with we don’t really have an end game so we could be gone for a few months or a few years. We plan on doing a bit of volunteering along the way which will be anything from helping at an orphanage in Cambodia, where all we need is a sarong and flip flops, or a dog sled group in Switzerland, where we’ll obviously need some warm winter clothing. Even as we write this, opportunities have already opened in Telluride, CO. 

We decided to not over-think the initial packing situation and looked at what we had, where we are going first and reminded each other that there are jackets, pants, shorts, etc… available to buy in other parts of the world.  

We both had backpacks which where solid, well-used but not over-used and really the perfect size, Cory’s is 65 liters and Kate’s is 50 liters. If we could have changed anything, we would have upgraded Kate’s backpack so that it had access from the bottom as well as the top making storing and pulling out the sleeping bag a lot easier.

Next, we simply tossed all our camping gear into a pile along with the clothes we planned on taking. We had a bit of gear and a lot of clothes and we knew it wasn’t all coming with us. Over a period of 40 some years, you accumulate a lot of stuff. We weren’t going to bring 4 camelbacks and we certainly didn’t need to bring 5 knives and two folding saws. So before we picked and finally settled in on our final selection, we looked at our game plan which we broke into Phase 1, 2 and 3.

Phase 1:  Aug 8 – Sept 1 we will be camping and hiking our way through West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and then on to Minnesota. 

Phase 2:  September 10 (or whenever we leave MN) through roughly November. We plan on more camping and hiking at places like Glacier National Park, Yellowstone, The Tetons, Utah, down to Lake Havasu, over to Palm Springs and then back to Arizona to  sell the Zoom Zoom (aka our Mazda 3).

During phase 1 and 2 we will be driving around in the Zoom Zoom. Although this adds an added expense with gas, insurance and maintenance, it is really the best (and only) way to travel in the United States, especially in these western states where you might have to drive over 100 miles to the next town or gas stop.  Having the Zoom Zoom does allow us to be a bit “lazy” with our gear, we can carry a bit more than we normally would – olive oil, salt and pepper grinders, a cooler for food and when you come across a “Buy 3 bottles of wine for $9.99” and a “2 for 1 deal on Smirnoff vodka” like we did in Holbrook, AZ, well the Zoom  Zoom allows you to soak up those opportunities.

Phase 3:  This starts once the Zoom Zoom is sold and then we start making our way down to and through Central America and on to South America. We have not created an itinerary for this part of the trip because our travel will be inspired and dictated by volunteer opportunities via, any other volunteer opportunities that present itself as well as what we learn from other travelers as to what to see and things to do.  Keeping all doors open at this point.  

Cory discovered www.Workaway.Info one day when looking for International Volunteer opportunities and that’s when we really started to dream about the possibilities. Not only would these volunteer opportunities allow us to travel cheaply – most workaways provide room and board – but we could pursue those things about which we are truly passionate.

Okay, getting back to what we packed – here is the list: 

Kate’s pack, weighing in at 30 lbs:

  1. REI Backpack FLASH 50

  2. REI sleeping bag – Radiant +25 F, 650 down fill

  3. Therm-a-rest  – TrailPro Women’s 1877001

  4. Inflatable pillow (Aotu, purchased on eBay from China, 2 for $6)

  5. Therm-a-rest camping pillow

  6. Hammock (no-name, purchased on eBay from China for $5)

  7. Camelback

  8. Seat to Summit dry bag

  9. MSR water bag

  10. REI Flexlite camping chair

  11. Petzl headlamp

  12. iPhone holder and arm band (Quad-Lock)

  13. Silk mummy liner

  14. Washcloth

  15. Rope

  16. Gerber folding knife

  17. Compass

  18. Toiletries

  19. Camera (Nikon J3)

  20. Chaco’s

  21. Go-girl

  22. (3) pairs of socks

  23. (2) pairs of hiking socks

  24. Bandanna

  25. Dress

  26. Bathing suit

  27. (3) pairs underwear

  28. (3) sports bras

  29. (4) shirts

  30. Cold-weather hat

  31. Sun-protection hat

  32. Gloves

  33. Running shorts

  34. Running pants

  35. REI hiking pants

  36. REI rain jacket

  37. Northface fleece

  38. Light jacket

  39. Sarong

  40. Hiking shoes

  41. Flip flops

  42. MacBook Air

Cory’s pack, weighing in at 47 pounds;

  1. Osprey Atmos 65 backpack

  2. Mountain Hardware Sleeping bag with compression sack

  3. REI Trekker 1.75 air mattress

  4. MSR Hubba Hubba 2-person tent

  5. Inflatable pillow (Aotu, purchased on eBay from China, 2 for $6)

  6. Hammock

  7. Wingnut day pack with 3 liter Camelback bladder

  8. Dry bag

  9. MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set – I added two sets of silverware, lighter, coffee cup, salt and pepper and Dr Bonners Lavender soap

  10. Optimus Nova Stove

  11. (2) MSR Fuel canisters (22) ounces

  12. Vortex Crossfire 10×42 Binoculars

  13. Trail Blazer Sawvivor 15” folding saw

  14. REI Flexlite camping chair

  15. Petzl headlamp (2)

  16. Silk mummy liner

  17. Towel

  18. Snorkel and mask

  19. Swiss Army Knife

  20. Wine opener

  21. Flask

  22. Gerber folding knife

  23. Compass

  24. Toiletries

  25. (4) carabiners and extra webbing

  26. Chaco’s

  27. Adventure Medical Kits Smart Travel First-Aid Kit

  28. (3) pairs of socks

  29. (2) pairs of hiking socks

  30. Bandanna

  31. Merrell hiking boots

  32. (2) Swim trunks

  33. (3) short sleeve shirts

  34. (1) long sleeve wicking shirt 

  35. (4) shirts

  36. Cold-weather hat 

  37. Cap

  38. Gloves

  39. Running shorts

  40. Running tights

  41. Hiking pants

  42. Rain jacket

  43. Light jacket

  44. Sarong

  45. Flip flops

Kate’s approach to packing was to force herself to make honest decisions about what she will need, with a few wants if there was room. The goal is lightweight and convenience. Cory’s reasons for the gear he packed…practicality with a dash of convenience.

Once we go global, the contents of our backpacks will change  a little. And again, we can always purchase, or have friends and family send us what we need (hint-hint). Once you take a hard look at what your activities are and come to terms with the fact that you will be dirty and without a shower for several days, the decisions become easy. Clothes now have become about necessity.


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