Maria and Derek's Travels

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Art of Packing - How to Pack for an Extended Trip Abroad - Backpacker Style

  • Bring just two outfits and wash them every night.  
  • Bring five outfits and discard them along the way as you purchase more.  
  • Bring three weeks' worth and don't worry about doing laundry until you are deep into your trip.
  • Bring fancy clothes, workout clothes and casual clothes.
  • Bring one pair of shoes that will work for everything.
As you can imagine, there are as many approaches to packing as there are travelers in this world.  The options above are just a few of the methods recommended by various travelers.  The key is doing what makes you comfortable.  Some people truly just bring a few outfits and wash clothes most nights in their sink.  While the idea of having only a few things is appealing, we weren't too excited about the prospect of wearing the same thing every day and having to wash almost every night.

We tried our best not to go to the other extreme of bringing everything in our closet.  As the common advice says, you should pack your bag first, then throw out half of what you have packed, since that's actually the amount that you'll use and need.  Maria and I have both traveled a lot, but even so, packing for a five month trip is no easy task.

Most of the trip will be warm weather, so we didn't have to bring much cold-weather gear, though there will be some cold nights in Northern Vietnam and Laos, so we do have our jackets and pants.  Also, there are some conservative villages in a few of the countries that do prefer tourists to be respectful and wear pants, so we will do our best to appease the cultural norms.

The key for us was finding clothes that mix and match, clothes that are comfortable and particularly clothes that are light-weight.  We have some quick drying shirts and pants, along with other lightweight items.  All in all, we think we did pretty well, though I'm sure we may change our mind four months into the trip after lugging around our backpacks for months and months.

Another consideration is the actual bag.  We're huge fans of Osprey backpacks, and we will literally be backpacking around the region, holding all of our gear in large camping/traveling backpacks with smaller daypacks to hold our cameras, books, jackets, etc that we may need for the day of exploring.  Though we hope our large bags remain safe in buses, random hotels and our flight connections, we always want to have our most valuable items with us at all times - camera, passport, wallets, etc are all kept in our small packs, and those never leave our side.

We know we could have done better, but we're pretty happy with what we were able to stuff into our packs.  There's no right way, and we're definitely not experts, but here it is:

Derek's gear - 2 pants, 4 shorts, 1 swimsuit, 1 winter hat and 1 pair of gloves, 5 quick drying shirts, 4 lightweight button up shirts, 1 pair of sandals, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 rain jacket, 1 mid-weight packable jacket, 1 quick dry towel, 1 small hat AND 1 Indiana Jones style large hat

Rolling up items helps take up less space, and it can help prevent some wrinkles, if you do it right.  If not, you could also just be adding more wrinkles, but that's the least of your concerns on the road.

Nerd alert - we got large ziploc bags to consolidate and organize our stuff.  You can also get travel bags, but they are pretty expensive for what you're really getting.  Socks and underwear (in bag) are making a guest appearance in this picture...and hopefully they find their way in my backpack.  Otherwise this will be a long trip.

Fortunately, everything fit within the huge backpack, so that will be my life for the next 5 months.  (Osprey Waypoint 80)
Packing in motion

Maria's bag - 2 long sleeved shirts, 2 dresses, 1 workout band, 2 pairs of pants, 8 shirts, 4 shorts, 3 small dress shirts, 1 hat, 2 travel towels (one for the hair...Derek doesn't have that same issue), 1 rain jacket, 1 mid-weight packable jacket, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 pair of sandals AND 2 months' supply of Shakeology (it's a lifestyle)

Rolling, rolling, rolling

Ziploc bag action

At first, we had some issues getting it all into Maria's smaller bag, but we eventually made it work.  (Osprey Farpoint 55)

Packing in motion - part two


Brief Bio

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Taking advantage of our laptop lifestyle and wandering this world together. Maria Renee is an online health and fitness coach, and Derek is an actuarial seminar instructor. Traveling together since 2015. Also see

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