When I started this packing list, it was to help out some friends who were planning to join me on a trip down to Panama… but the more I worked on it, the more I realized that this list applied more broadly to international traveling. So I decided to create this guide for minimalist packing for international travel.
This packing guide is aimed to help you determine what are the minimum necessary items that can be packed and carried in one backpack. As many folks know, a rolling bag is not ideal for many travels as you will find yourself hiking, camping, riding buses and other alternative forms of transportation.
For myself, my rule of thumb is that if I can’t carry it on a hike then it doesn’t belong in my pack. This is the minimalists guide, but you may find that there are other items that are a must have for you. This is written from the perspective of a male and former Peace Corps Volunteer.
We learned to survive with what we could maintain and depend on the support of our surroundings for the rest. We would make one or two night treks through the jungle to get to other villages but almost always aimed to have a roof over our heads each night.
The list is broken down into categories of Personals, Clothes, Goods, and the Necessities.
My personal items live in a pencil bag sized tote bag and include:
Chewable Tums, Advil 200mg pills, Nyquil pills, soft foam ear plugs, Zyrtec allergy pills, Benadryl piils, Neosporin, Band-Aids, toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, small bottles of my favorite essential oils(peppermint, lavender, and eucalyptus), small roll of toilet paper, small sun screen, small Vaseline, chapstick, wet wipes, deodorant, bug spray (rub on), vicks vapor inhalant, and a small shampoo.
The clothes I pack are generally the same regardless of where I plan to head. Once in location, I have found it easy to pick up clothes that match the culture and environment. This may be more of a challenge for ladies than men. My standard travel clothes pack includes:
Pair of travel shorts, pair of travel pants, pair of comfy jeans, tank tops, short sleeve button ups, regular t-shirts, long sleeve T-shirt, underwear, socks, sandals (crocs or chacos), moving shoes (either hiking or sneakers), rain jacket, pajamas, pillow case, ball cap hat, sunglasses, swim suit, micro fiber travel towel, inflatable travel pillow, and a cocoon travel sheet
These are the things I bring to deepen my experience and make my life a lot easier. For me, I travel around in the rain forest often enough that I need to prepare my bag to withstand a down pour basically ever time Im moving. So these will be different for everyone and some will want less even. My goods are as follows:
A digital camera and pouch, GoPro with collapsible pole, USB quick transfer cable, unlocked cell phone, charger cables, external battery, headlamp, luci light, small flashlight, ear buds head phones, water bottle, zip-lock bags, waterproof bag, 12v battery fan, sawyer water filter, single nest eno hammock, monocular, playing cards, small tripod, Garmin InReach mini, analog wrist watch, my journal, pens, and a paperback book.
The most important items that you must not lose are you identification and insurance cards. These are what will get you out of trouble if you end up in an accident or get stranded. My necessities include:
Passport in passport book wallet, separate wallet for carrying, cash, WHO Card, emergency contact card, travel insurance provider card, proof of flights leaving and entering the country, hotel/hostel reservations, and a dated travel plan.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. For example, if you plan to spend more time without standard shelter, you will be looking to carry things like a bivy tent, camping stove, and cooking supplies. If that is you then search elsewhere.
But my advice for international travel remains the same. Bring comfortable clothes that you like. Do not forgo your favorite sleeping shirt or pair of socks for the sake of potentially losing them. These are the articles that will make you feel comfortable while you are on the road.
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