Updated on August 13, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
That’s why I’ve drawn from my own experiences to put together this long-term travel packing list. Also, you’ll find sections on what to wear during long-term travel, what NOT to bring, and FAQ answers.
While you’ll want to pack light, you also need to make sure you’re prepared for anything and have everything you need to feel safe, refreshed, and comfortable, wherever in the world you end up.
What to Pack for Long-Term Travel – 17 Essentials
Packing for long-term travel starts with a good backpack. During your travels, you’re likely to be moving around a lot. Being able to carry all of your luggage on your back makes that easy, whereas juggling suitcases and multiple bags is difficult when you’re walking through cities, and hopping on and off of busses and trains. Make sure to get a backpack with anti-gravity suspension so that your load feels lighter, and it’s also important to buy for your gender as women’s backpacks are fitted for the female body whereas men’s backpacks distribute the weight differently.
2. Travel Towel
A travel towel is absolutely essential for long-term travel. These travel towels pack small and dry quickly, so they’re perfect for carrying around on the move. You also don’t need to clean them as frequently as a normal towel, which is great when you aren’t able to do laundry as frequently. I use my travel towel both outdoors and for bathing.
When you’re living out of a backpack, things can get messy really quickly. That’s why I rely on packing cubes. They organize your luggage so that finding your belongings, packing and unpacking is a breeze. When you’re moving from place to place, you’ll be grateful that your backpack is so organized.
4. Neck Wallet
It can be easy to lose track of your valuables while traveling long term. Especially as you move through bus stations, train stations and airports, you want to always be sure that your passport and wallet are safe. This pouch allows you to carry your passport, debit cards, cash and documents safely under your shirt where pickpockets can’t reach them. This neck wallet even comes with RFID blocking to prevent e-thieves from stealing your credit card details.
I can’t understate the importance of traveling with your own water bottle. If you don’t, you can easily end up wasting a lot of unnecessary money and plastic. A Lifestraw water bottle is best because it filters and purifies water on the go, which means that you can drink from anywhere. Depending on where you are, often your water source won’t be reliable, so a water bottle with a built-in filter is a huge plus.
Moving between different countries, you’ll need a good universal power adapter so that you can plug in your electronics anywhere. This one has a built-in fuse to protect your devices during a power surge, and is lightweight and compact.
Whether you spend ten hours on a bus or stay overnight camping somewhere remote, you’ll likely have periods without access to electricity during your travels. This portable charger is lightweight, compact, and greatly extends the battery life of your electronics. It’s much nicer to venture off the beaten track when you know that you’re carrying around your own pocket-sized power supply!
When visiting new countries, it is likely that not all of the new foods that you try will sit well in your stomach. In fact, during long-term travel I accept the reality that generally my stomach is likely to frequently be upset. Activated charcoal is a hero for the stomach, as it absorbs toxins, helping you to recover quickly. It’s essential to keep handy when you’re trying new cuisines.
In addition to your big backpack, you’ll need a smaller pack for day use. I love daypacks that fold up small so that they don’t take up any extra space in your larger pack, but also can be used as an option if you, say, have a shopping trip and your luggage starts to overflow. This daypack is rainproof and ultralight.
10. Travel Pillow
I love my travel pillow. It comes in handy for long flights or bus rides, as well as camping and budget accommodations that are less than comfortable. It rolls up small so it is easy to carry around, but when unrolled this Thermarest travel pillow is so comfortable that you can literally fall asleep anywhere.
I’ve visited hostels around the world where the insulation and bedding just doesn’t cut it. That’s why I think it’s important to always have your own sleeping bag onhand. This one is light so it won’t add unnecessary weight to your bag. A sleeping bag can make a huge difference when it comes to a good night’s sleep, particularly if you’re traveling somewhere that can get cold.
This packable down jacket is perfect because it can keep you very warm, but isn’t as bulky as most winter wear. It packs small and is extremely light, so it can easily fit into your backpack without adding weight. It’s versatile and works equally well on a chilly summer night, as a fall or spring coat, and as a winter layer.
13. Hiking Boots
During long-term travels, it is likely that you’ll live in your hiking boots. Long-term travel can entail lots and lots of walking, so you want to make sure that you wear shoes that are kind to your feet. Merrel makes great hiking boots that are durable, comfortable, stylish, waterproof, and have fantastic grip for tough terrain.
14. Travel Hammock
A travel hammock is a must for long-term travel. You can string it up in a forest or on a beach and have a perfect rest day. Best of all, it only takes a minute or two to set up. This travel hammock is relatively lightweight and small, and it’s worth carrying around for some luxury and comfort wherever you are.
Using compression sacks for packing has revolutionized travel for me. It saves space in your luggage by compressing your clothes, sleeping bag and towel, removing air to pack down smaller. As you travel and shop at local markets, accumulating stuff, this will be the gift that keeps on giving. These compression sacks are also waterproof, and it is always good to have that added protection on a rainy day.
A VPN protects your security. This means hassle free transactions at airports, hotels, AirBnBs, cafes and even roadside vendors without worrying about your credit card number being hacked or stolen. Unfortunately, I’ve learned from personal experience that travelers are easy targets for credit card fraud. With a VPN you can feel safer and more free in your transactions.
17. Travel Insurance
Because you never know what might happen while traveling abroad, travel insurance is necessary. Especially if you want to venture out of your comfort zone while traveling – which you should! – you’ll feel better if you are insured. World Nomads is the best, protecting you in unpredictable events from illness and injury to theft.
Other Long-Term Travel Packing Items Not to Forget
First Aid Kit
Waterproof phone case
Reef safe sunscreen
Tea tree oil
Travel toilet paper
What to Wear During Long-Term Travel
You’ll want to make sure to include activewear so that you can safely and comfortably explore the outdoors. Depending on the temperatures where you will be traveling, it’s a good idea to pack a compact jacket and thermal underwear, because these lightweight items do a lot to keep you warm. Activewear with sweat-wicking technology is particularly good because it can handle dirt and sweat without needing to be washed after each use.
The best clothing for long-term travel is clothing that is lightweight and packs down small. Do your best to leave behind any clothing that is bulky, impractical, uncomfortable, or that wrinkles easily in your luggage.
Three types of shoes are essential for women during long-term travel: hiking boots, flip flops, and lightweight comfortable flats. While hiking boots are necessary so that you can regularly walk long distances comfortably, flip flops are good for slipping on and hostel use, and lightweight flats can be worn out to dinner or whenever you’re sick of wearing your hiking boots. Women should pack a couple of versatile dresses that work equally well for a casual day or a night out, depending on whether they’re dressed up or down. A cross body purse is also helpful for casual excursions. Leggings are great for long-term travel because they’re light and pack small, and are comfortable for both sleeping and travel.
Men can mostly wear t-shirts and comfortable shorts and pants during long-term travel. Though heavy, jeans are great for men because they’re versatile and can often be worn repeatedly without needing to be frequently washed. Men should be sure to pack hiking boots as well as flip flops for more casual use, including hostel showers. Depending on where you’re going, men may also want to pack lightweight, nicer shoes that look good on a night out but won’t be damaged spending a long time in a backpack. Merino thermal wear is fantastic because it can keep you
Seasons vary depending on where you are going, so you’ll have to do individual research for the specific places you’re planning to visit. I’ve put together this rough guide though, to help you with your ideas.
Springtime can be wet, so make sure that you have a good rain jacket (women & men). Be prepared with layers for changing temperatures throughout the day, and active wear with long sleeves . A compact jacket is good to carry around wherever you go, just in case temperatures suddenly get cold (women & men)
Summer is the easiest time to travel in terms of your packing list. You can wear shorts (men</a & women), lightweight pants (men & women), summer dresses, and t-shirts or tank tops. Flip flops are great for summer travel because they’re easy to slip on and off. You also may want to travel with hiking sandals (men & women) instead of or in addition to your hiking boots, because they’re cooler and more comfortable for warmer weather.
As for springtime travel, make sure that you always have layers on hand for when temperatures get cool. This should include merino base layers, which are fantastic because they can keep you both cool or warm depending on what your body needs. Also carry around your compact down jacket (men & women) for quick and easy warmth when you need it. Hiking boots (men & women)are the most practical footwear for fall travel. A flannel, and more lightweight sweaters, are also comfortable for travel during this season.
In the winter, though bulky, you usually do need to travel with a proper winter coat. A ski jacket is versatile for many activities and perfect for snow. You’ll also want a microfleece sweater, and thermal base layers for layering up. Merino hiking socks will keep your feet warm, and make sure to pack hiking boots that are insulated and keep your feet dry in rain or snow. Don’t forget a neck warmer, which is often lighter and easier to travel with than a scarf, and a good warm beanie.
You may be traveling to somewhere with a rainy season. In that case, you’ll want to wear clothing that can easily get wet. Waterproof or quick drying shorts and a rain jacket (women & Men) are key. It’s also best to wear hiking sandals with good grip (men & women) during the rainy season, so that they can get wet and dry quickly, keeping your feet comfortable.
Hiking – For hiking and other outdoor adventure activities, make sure you wear your hiking boots and hiking pants or shorts. Activewear shirts with sweat-wicking technologies are best for keeping you comfortable and cool, and if it is particularly cold wear merino base layers that will keep you warm when cold and cool as you warm up.
Religious sites – Research local customs to make sure that you dress respectfully for visiting religious sites like temples. Carry long sleeves and a sarong to wrap around your shoulders or waist, because often it is disrespectful to show shoulders or legs at various religious sites.
Nightlife – Don’t overdress for nightlife with chunky heels and clothing that is fancy and impractical. Women can get away with flats and a dress, while men can wear nice lightweight shoes, jeans, and a button-down.
The beach – If you’ll be spending lots of time at the beach, be sure to pack a stylish and comfortable beach cover-up in addition to your bathing suit and flip flops. Don’t forget a hat, sunglasses and reef-safe sunscreen.
City Days – Women can wear a comfortable dress with casual, lightweight flat shoes for urban days out. Men can wear either jeans or more comfortable lightweight pants, along with lightweight shoes or hiking boots, and a casual button-down or t-shirt.
What NOT to bring for long-term travel
2) Many books: No matter how much you love to read, carrying around too many books on your back is heavy and impractical. I recommend just investing in a kindle for your travels, which is much lighter and also means that you can buy books on-the-go wherever you have wifi.
3) Unnecessary Valuables – including clothes: Traveling long term and moving around a lot, it may at times become difficult to keep track of all of your things. Leave unnecessary valuables behind, including clothing that is precious to you. Apart from necessary items like your passport, wallet, and phone, you should be prepared for the possibility of damaging or losing whatever you travel with long-term.
5) Too many clothes: You don’t have room in your backpack for an entire wardrobe, unfortunately. Only pack a few practical outfits, and clothing that is versatile and that you don’t mind wearing over and over again.
6) Bath towel: A bath towel is impractical because it takes a long time to dry and is bulky in your luggage. It can make your whole backpack mouldy. Bring a travel towel instead.
7) Lots of cash: Both because of pickpocketing and border crossings with changes in currency, try to keep the cash you carry to a safe but practical minimum. When you take out cash, it can also be a good idea to note the ATMs you use in case of hacking and fraud.
FAQs about Long-Term Travel
1. How can I travel long-term on a low budget?
Budgeting is especially important when traveling long term. In addition to staying in budget-friendly hostels, it is also a good idea to look into work exchange through www.workaway.info or www.wwoof.net. This gives you accommodation in exchange for work rather than money, and also often includes amazing cultural experiences where you can interact more deeply with locals and spend more time in one place. Don’t be afraid to use local public transport, usually cheaper than private travel, and to try delicious local street foods. It is often more practical to cook many of your meals at your hostel rather than relying on eating out every day. Look into free experiences, like free city walking tours, to learn about where you are without paying extra.
2. Where should I stay while traveling long term?
Look into budget accommodation, like hostels and homestays. As mentioned, also look for accommodation that suits your interests through work exchange, so that you don’t have to spend money for every night of your trip. www.workaway.info and www.wwoof.net are full of amazing cultural experiences that can both deepen and cheapen your trip. If you’re traveling in places like New Zealand or Hawai’i, look into using a camper van or even just a tent.
3. How and when should I get my visas?
Visa rules are different in every country, so make sure that you do careful research and plan ahead for everywhere you go. I’ve learned this the hard way! Start early because some visas require multiple embassy visits and a few weeks wait, while many you can get online and instantly.
4. What are the best regions for travel long-term?
The region you travel in depends on your interests. Southeast Asia is classic for low-budget travel, warm weather, natural beauty and depth, and diversity in cultural experiences. There is also a well-established infrastructure of hostels there, which makes life easier if you’re new to traveling long term. Central and South America are similarly amazing regions to travel in, full of adventures, but can be slightly more expensive. Europe, of course, is the most expensive, but fantastic for art and cities. Southeastern Europe and the Balkans have amazing cultures, histories, wine, and beaches without costing as much as Northern and Western Europe. Central Asia is extremely adventurous and off-the-beaten-track and can be stunningly beautiful. Particularly if you’re a more seasoned traveler and desire more local experiences without as much tourism “industry,” Central Asia is worth looking into. There is also never enough time to spend in single countries that you fall in love with. In countries like India or New Zealand, you can travel for months without ever getting bored.
5. What is the best way to get around while traveling long term?
Transport also depends on where you are. Public transport is often the cheapest mode of travel while also offering the best insights into local life, but it can also be uncomfortable and slow. Sometimes the best option is to rent or even buy your own car for total freedom and autonomy to explore. To travel sustainably, do reduce your flights and travel by land (or sea!) when you can.