A lot of people ask me how we manage to pack so lightly for extended travel. The good news is, it’s really not that hard. With just a few articles of clothing in your wardrobe, you too can conquer the world. You’ll find this list along with lots of great insight from other world travelers in my ebook The Modern Nomad’s Backpack: A Guide to Packing Light for Round the World Travel.
- Tops: 3 t-shirts, 2 cami, 1 tank top, 2 longsleeve button-downs
- Bottoms: 1 casual dress, 1 black skort, 1 pair of athletic pants, 1 pair of athletic shorts, 1 pair of jeans
- Underwear: 4 underpants, 1 bra with thin straps, 1 bra that can work as a bathing suit, 1 sports bra
- Socks: 2 pairs
- Shoes: 1 pair of hiking boots, 1 pair of rugged sandals
- Outerwear: 1 rain jacket, 1 fleece jacket, 1 city hat, 1 winter hat, 1 tiny earmuffs
- Sun/Swim: 1 bathing suit, 1 sun hat, 1 rashguard/sun shirt
- Accessories: waterproof watch, earrings, sunglasses, headband, wallet, handkerchief, 1 travel towel (medium), 1 ultralight packable nylon messenger bag
- Tops: 5 t-shirts, 1 longsleeve, 2 short sleeve button-downs
- Bottoms: 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of athletic pants, 1 pair of athletic shorts
- Underwear: 4 pairs
- Socks: 5 pairs
- Shoes: 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of rugged sandals
- Outerwear: 1 merino wool hoodie, 1 thin wool sweater, 1 winter hat, 1 rain jacket, 1 pair of tiny earmuffs
- Sun/Swim: 1 pair of board shorts, 1 waterproof money holder, 1 travel towel (medium)
- Accessories: money belt, sunglasses, 1 ultralight packable nylon backpack
Our actual inventory is constantly fluctuating, but these are the standard things we carry. Whenever we run out, we just pick up the local version.
- toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss
- crystal deodorant rock
- tube of antibiotic cream
- a few bandages
- a few cotton swabs
- bar soap (dual purpose: hair and body)
- nail clippers
- beard trimmer & safety razor
- hair cutting shears, thinning shears, and comb
- folding hair brush
- moisturizing lotion
- lip balm
- sun screen
- insect repellant (consider DEET for malaria and dengue areas)
- anti-itch cream
- immune supporting supplements & tinctures
- shelf-stable probiotics & high-dose crisis probiotics
- chewable Pepto Bismol tablets
- Loratadine (non-drowsy)
- digital thermometer
- vegetable disinfectant solution
- prescription meds (if applicable)
- packets of oral rehydration salts
- water purification tablets
- motion sickness tablets, non-drowsy
- motion sickness wrist bands
- 1 reusable menstrual cup
- 3 reusable menstrual pads
Since we’re choosing to travel and live casually, we don’t have clothing for every occasion. If we need to go to a big meeting or fancy dinner (rarely), we’ll borrow or buy something when we get there and then decide later if it is to be kept or donated. For example, Mike bought a shirt to wear at a big client meeting. He landed the client. The shirt paid for itself right away. Over the next five months, he didn’t wear the shirt more than once, so he decided to donate it one day before getting on a plane. Also, that shirt was prone to wrinkles, which put it on the chopping block right away. Any good travel garment will be wrinkle resistant and will keep its shape after washing.
If you choose to travel between similar climates, all of your clothing will be functional all of the time. This means you won’t have any dead weight in your bag caused by clothing you can’t wear at the moment. We can wear any combination of top and bottom together, so we’re not wasting space with any one outfit that has to go together. We also practice a one-in/one-out policy on replacing clothing as we go. If I really want to buy that cute skirt at the beach, something else has to go in order to make space for it. On one hand, this policy can help you to be content with the clothes you already have. On the other hand, it can be an opportunity to have an ever-changing wardrobe. Either way, your bag won’t be overstuffed with clothes.
Another good policy when choosing your wardrobe is to consider hidden-pocket and security features. Find yourself a shirt or undershirt with a hidden zipper pocket for stashing your wallet and passport on travel days. If you search around, you’ll even find some socks, underpants, vests, and scarves with hidden zipper pockets. Choosing zipper-pocket and hidden-pocket clothing means you don’t need to use one of those waist, leg, or neck passport safes.
Laundry Pro Tips:
- Instead of buying the expensive travel laundry soap sheets, you can pick up a bar of laundry soap when you arrive. In Central America, I’ve found Zote and Ambar to be the most eco- and skin- friendly.
- Instead of setting your laundry soap bar in a puddle by the sink, bore a hole in it with a knife or scissors, run a piece of cord through it, and hang it from a mirror, window, or tile with a suction cup.
- After washing your clothes, roll them up in a towel and wring them out before hanging them to dry. This will significantly reduce your dry time and in most cases will set up your socks and undies to be wear-dry or pack-dry by morning.
- If you’re short on dry time, only wash the high traffic parts of your clothes (armpits, crotch) and don’t get the rest of it wet.
- If you’re sending your laundry out for washing, request line-dry-only. This will help your clothes last longer.
Other Things We Pack Reviews
Find links to our electronics, gear, and other packing lists on our main packing list page.
You can see what clothing and gear we’re actually carrying and what we think about them in these lists: