Even seasoned travelers have second thoughts about what to pack for an upcoming month long or more trip. Ideally in your bag you will have everything you will use and want and nothing more, but that is not always the case. After several month-long backpacking trips during college I have found that often the simpler the better.

And it’s easy to forget that you can buy almost anything you may need (or forgot to pack) anywhere in the world. So don’t sweat it if you didn’t pack the perfect bag.

Choosing What to Pack

It’s one thing to take off to somewhere you have traveled to before, but when heading to an uncommon land you are never quite sure what you will need to stay comfortable. Some questions that can help you sort out your clothing choices are:

How hot does it get during the warmest day? If you expect hot days you will want to pack airy comfortable clothes, and likely change out of what you are wearing every day.

How cold does it get on the coolest day? Be sure to pack for the coldest and rainiest possible scenario, you don’t want to be stuck out in the cold without the proper gear. As a bare minimum, always pack a super light rain jacket.

What are the day/night time fluctuations? Consider the day and night time temperature fluctuations. You may need to layer during a cool morning as you head out for a day’s adventure, but be prepared to peel off layers if it heats up over the course of the day. This is more likely to happens in desert and high altitude climates.

Are you going to be traveling at altitude? Along the coast? Rainy season? Again if you are traveling mostly within a specific region or climate be sure to pack the right gear. Even in the summer at altitudes above 10,000 ft it can get downright cold in the evening as the sun goes down. You can easily pack a lightweight down vest or jacket to keep you warm in most situations and it would take away much packing space. On the other hand if you are traveling at lower elevations and temperate or maritime climates you can expect much more modest temperature fluctuations and can get away with a more limited set of clothing.

Obviously the list can go on and depending on your daily activities you may need much more gear. I have found what generally works for me and feel fairly confident heading off on a 3+ month trip with nothing more than a carry on bag. Most of my clothes overlap with use and activity, but I have realized that with a very solid and useful set of clothes you can get away with them in almost every situation. Here is what’s going into my bags for an upcoming 3+ month trip through Southeast Asia.

Out of the Bag

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7 Shorts (2 swim shorts)
3 Pants
8 T-Shirts
9 Pairs of socks
11 Underwear
1 Rain jacket
2 Pullovers (1 merino wool)
3 Pairs of shoes (1 running, 1 casual, 1 flip flop)
2 Hats
1 Laptop
1 iPhone
1 Point & shoot camera
1 GoPro camera
2 Passports (American & Italian)
A watch, pair of sunglasses, earphones and small notebooks/pens
Not in photo: random small stuff including memory cards, chargers and various toiletries, etc

In the Bags

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Normally on an month or longer trip I travel with a bag that has backpack straps, you never know when you will have to walk with your bags and the ease of moving around a city with something on your back vs. rolling on the ground is huge. This is even more so in countries where you don’t know what to expect for sidewalks, potholes, etc.

One of my favorite do everything bags is the North Face Base Camp Duffel. For this trip I will be using the medium size bag which is small enough as carry-on on international flights. What I like about the bag is that it is a simple, bombproof duffel bag with backpack straps. The material is actually the same as what is used on white water rafts and makes it semi-waterproof for light rain or short down-pours.

My day bag will be a waterproof North Face backpack, and will keep all electronics dry if I happen to be caught out in the rain with it. The bag has no frame, which also adds to its flexibility to roll-up and be packed away when no in use.

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7 Comments

  • Hmm, why you take so much clothes? I take like 3-5 times less pieces, because, as you said, everything you need can be bought later as well.

    If you plan to stay more or less at one place, that I may say, that your way is better. For moving around I prefer to go with as little as possible.

  • this is ultimate packing! I plan to do a similar trip in 2015, I’ll be sure to come back here to compare what’s on my bag because I have no idea what to take to Southeast Asia 😀

  • Aren’t jeans too hot for Asia and the hardest to wash and dry? I find that Americans like their jeans, no matter how hot or humid the weather.

    • TTN, it sure is hot here! I figure I will where them during the evening a few times and on travel days.

  • choi, some European countries allow you to claim citizenship if you can trace back your blood lineage. For Italians it is called Right of Blood or “jus sanguinis”.