How to Pack for a Year of RTW Travel
It may go without saying, but the better you know where and when you’re going, the more efficiently you can pack. While it’s tempting to bring all the “just in case’s”, lugging your closet around makes travel days a nightmare and can eat into your budget – plus it leaves no room for goodies! One of the hardest things is to be realistic as you pack: if you’ve never used or worn it at home, you’re unlikely to use it on your trip. Limit yourself to multi-use or versatile items, think capsule wardrobe, so that you can mix and match or layer as needed. If you do end up buying new clothes or gear for your trip, give yourself enough time to test them out and break them in, you don’t want any surprises during the trip!
We traveled for 360 days straight through every kind of weather: rainy Spain, snowy Finland, chilly Japan, balmy Bali, and desert-y Doha. However, this was our first Round the World trip, so there was a big learning curve for being prepared. We ended up mailing a few packages home (our drone, some presents, and our backpacking backpacks) and when we met up with family we swapped out our heavier winter gear. So here’s our packing list and notes on what we kept, swapped out or picked up along the way. Lots of our gear was bought over a year ago and may no longer be available, but we’ve done our best to find and note similar items where we could. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which supports us with a small commission if you click through the link and make any purchases. We truly appreciate the support and hope you find this list helpful as you plan your own adventures!
Adrienne’s Pack List
Total count: 4 shorts, 6 pants, 1 dress, 7 tops, 3 jackets
Honestly not sure how the math worked when I packed these things. In the end I wish I had more tops than bottoms, as I would sweat through the shirts carrying a backpack all the time. That also meant I wouldn’t bother getting too dressy either. Pockets are a big thing for a reason – utility. Pockets with zippers are an even bigger plus, as they’re more secure for traveling.
- Comfy shorts + tee (used as PJs and extra workout clothes in a pinch)
- Jean shorts
- Patagonia shorts – Loved these casual/comfy enough to wear every day and also quick dry for work outs or beach days
- Lightweight running shorts
- PrAna green cargo jogger pants – Cargo pants give you plenty of pocket options, useful especially for photographers! PrAna no longer offers the exact pair I used, but these are similar.
- Long johns/winter leggings – only recommended if you’re headed to wintery areas, we saved a little cash by purchasing these REI kid ones that still fit!
- Black leggings – my go-to bottoms are always black leggings because they’re so versatile, so make sure you invest in a long lasting pair – like these
prAna Pillar ⅞ leggings which I loved because the shorter length is perfect for those of us vertically challenged.
- Lightweight loose fitting pants, a.k.a wide-legged or the ubiquitous “elephant pants” – you can get the “elephant pants” cheaper in South East Asia, but I recommend starting your trip with a pair. They’re comfy and a great option when you need to stay covered by want to stay cool, whether you’re headed to a balmy destination or just the airport. I prefer a baggy fit but tapered leg so I don’t trip over them, like these Forever 21 ones
- Black short sleeve button up blouse
- Black spaghetti strap tank
- Dri-fit athletic tank
- Ministry Women’s Basic Tee – I did like the feel of the fabric and how it took up zero space in my luggage though, but ended up preferring the men’s fit better and barely wore this.
- Ministry Men’s Basic Tee. Practically lived in this tee. I prefer the men’s fit over the women’s because of the crew neck and the longer length and I loved that it barely pilled despite the year’s worth of backpack wearing.
- Nike Long sleeve running shirt with UV protection – served me well in both cold and hot places
- Maxi dress
- Lightweight active jacket – I wore my Sugoi zip up similar to this one all the time, great for layering
- Ultra-light-weight rain jacket – something you can roll and pack into your day bag, it can double as a layer for warmth or a mat if you need something to sit on or lay your gear on.
- Solid Winter jacket – (if you’re headed somewhere cold) I used my Northface snowboarding jacket from many years ago. It was too bulky to pack, so I had to wear or carry it on travel days, something to keep in mind. The ski/snowboarding jackets are well designed for all the zippered and velcro flapped pockets. The inner breast pocket was perfect for my passport and tickets.
- 2 swimsuits – I brought one bikini and one race swimwear which I find more comfortable for wearing under wetsuits when diving, in retrospect I should have just brought that one. I like the TYR ones like this , if you can get a reversible one, that’s even better!
- Long sleeve UV protecting rashguard – I packed it for diving and longer beach days in case I needed to cover my tattoo sleeve
- 6 pairs of undies – I really liked these Patagonia hipsters for the comfort and quick dry – they hand-washed well.
- 3 period undies – I tried both Thinx and Knix undies prior to take off and preferred the lower profile of the Knix leakproof panties
- 2 sports bras
- 6 pairs of running socks
- 2 pairs of long wool socks – used only with my hiking boots, I really liked these Darn Tough socks
- Small Garment bag
- Every day running shoes like my Nike free runners
- Teva Olowahu flip flops
- Black flats – I didn’t use them at all and sent them back home
- Ahnu Montara Hiking boots
Adrienne’s Accessories & Misc
- Baseball Cap
- Bandana – [Bought in Singapore] once I got it I couldn’t live without it. Great for the South East Asia heat or as a handkerchief and handy for active days too
- FlipBelt – doubled as running pockets and also a hide-able money belt
- Gloves – definitely consider gloves that are touchscreen compatible so you don’t have to take them off to use your phone
- Backpacking backpack – I started with this REI 40L backpack – and wound up sending it back when we switched over to the luggages
- Carry-on sized luggage – [Bought in Spain] after a month of backpacking we decided to switch to these American Tourister luggage American Tourister Curio Hardside Luggage, Carry-ons
- Day Pack/Gear bag – we both used the
- Wandrd PRVK 21L
- Small cross-body bag – [Bought in Japan] I thought I could get away without a purse while traveling, but ended up wanting to have easy access to my essentials and a minimal day bag when we weren’t taking our cameras with us
- Hydro Flask 18oz
- Travelwise packing cubes
- Jade Yoga – Voyager yoga mat
and loved the side access and sleek design but found it didn’t breathe enough
Carl’s Packing List
- prAna Men’s Mojo Short
- prAna Brion pants
- prAna Bridger jeans
- Threads 4 thought sweat pants
- 3x athletic shorts
- 2x Under Armour tech shirt
- 2x H&M regular fit crew neck shirt
- 1x ministry of supply collared shirt
- 3x Misc T-Shirts
- 7x Pair of Thieves cool breeze boxer briefs
- 4x R Gear Thin No Show socks
- 2x Darn Tough merino wool socks
Carl’s Accessories & Misc
- Nike Dri-fit hat
- RVCA blue hat similar to this RVCA Tonnaly Black Haze Hat
- H&M C&A Beanie
- Travelwise packing cubes
- Gregory Zulu 40 backpack – switched to luggage below
- American Tourister luggage
- Wandrd PRVK 21L
- TOPO Quick Pack – smaller camera bag
- Jade Voyager Yoga mat
- Exercise resistance bands
- Hydroflask 32ozTakeya lid
- Floss – We ran out in Bali and couldn’t find any stores that carried floss anywhere!
- Lush Shampoo bar
- Travel size conditioner (I didn’t like the Lush conditioner bars, they left my hair feeling dry)
- Soap bar Dr. Bronner’s All in one bar soap – we used it for bathing, hand-washing clothes, and hand soap in a pinch
- Full sized Aveeno body lotion – we started with travel size but had to check in our luggage anyway so we opted for the full size to save money
- Vitamin E Moisture-Protect Emulsion with SPF 30 – for most of the trip I lived without but once we hit South East Asia I really needed the UV protection every day and couldn’t stand the heavy regular sunblock on my face
- Travel size sunblock
- Schmidt’s Deodorant
- Contact solutions
- Night guards
*Check in with your stays before packing toiletries. Most hotels and AirBnBs mention what they provide. All of our Japan AirBnB stays provided everything.
No matter how short your trip is, you’ll want to pack an emergency bag. It may be as simple as a first aid kit or more involved depending on your destinations and possible activities. We had plans to go to a couple African and South American countries, but never quite made it so we didn’t end up needing it all.
- Malaria pills
- High altitude pills
- Traveler’s diarrhea pills
- Chewable pepto bismol pills
- Ivarest Anti-Itch Cream, Maximum Strength, Medicated
- Cough drops
- Alcohol wipes
- Ace bandage
- Water filter