How to Pack for a Year-Long Trip

  1. Agree to go on a year long trip. Oscillate between pure joy and nauseating fear for the next few months. Begin to consider the physical size and impact of your possessions. Wonder how you’ll survive without five different cardigans.
  2. Research (other) travel blogs, and search out their packing lists. My favorites are:
  3. Make a spreadsheet cross-listing all of these lists, so that you can compare numbers and types of items at a glance (lists are probably fine, but my motto is “why make a list when you can make a SPREADSHEET”). Look for patterns in the items – you probably won’t need two swimsuits if you’re going to ski the Alps – and remember that other countries have washers and dryers. You don’t need 300 pairs of underwear (but you also need more than one. Don’t be a hero).
  4. Look at what you already own. Your clothes are more durable than you think – if you’ve been wearing a pair of jeans for a year and they’re soft and broken in, chances are they’ll work well for your trip.
  5. Drink a glass of wine too quickly one evening and splurge at If you make too many of these mistakes, just make a habit of reading the return policy.
  6. Once you have an idea of the number of items you need, research brands. Tons of travel sites review clothing, shoes, and gear regularly; compare brands, ask around, and take recon trips to REI to test them out. (Don’t purchase anything at REI until at least your fifth visit. The reusable water bottles are tempting, but it’s better to wait, I promise).
  7. Slowly purchase necessary items for your trip. Try not to buy too much at once, but buy early enough that you can test out clothes and break them in if necessary. Keep track of what you’re buying, and what you’re bringing from your closet.
  8. Make sure your desired wardrobe fits in the backpack/suitcase you’re bringing. You’ll wear some clothes on the plane and when you’re walking around, but at no point should your bag feel uncomfortably full.
  9. Remember that even if you’re unsure/stressed, other countries have stores. You can buy the basics along the way if you need them. And it’s not shameful to abandon unnecessary items during your trip – just find them good homes (e.g. other hostel guests, donation bins, etc).
  10. You’ve done it! You have a workable wardrobe for your trip! Congratulations! Drink another glass of wine to celebrate.

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