Ten Starting Places: Packing Lists

Every Friday, we post ten (or so) links that provide a planning traveler with a few quality guides to use as foundations in their search for answers about a specific question. Rather than seek out reviews about individual products, we aim to list articles that cover the basic questions, compare several options, or provide a general orientation to the topic. These lists are jumping boards for you to see a short list of high quality perspectives all in one place; we’ll sift through the mediocre Google results to compile a concise list of good stuff just for you!

Every travel blogger – good ones, mediocre ones, military ones, fashionable ones, independent ones, magazine editor ones, short-term, long-term, you name it – every single travel blogger ever has written a post about their packing lists. If you were to look at the top one-hundred travel bloggers, you would easily come up with more than one-hundred packing lists. You can search for packing lists from a Peace Corps angle, a honeymoon angle, an au pair angle, a WWOOF angle, whatever you might be doing. You can search by where you’re headed and when you’re going. Entire websites are dedicated to packing lists, techniques, and special-made products.

Once you’ve sifted through a number of these lists, you’ll find that not a single (sane) person would write that their list is the end-all, be-all, ultimate list that’s perfect for every single reader. Every blogger discusses individualism in their packing list blog post. I’ve not even seen any of those free printable checklists that bloggers love to offer – everyone travels differently, and so everyone packs differently. You may find yourself staring at an empty bag and feeling a bit helpless and clueless, thinking that everyone else has more camping experience, more abroad experience, more of an idea of what they were doing and where they were going. That’s okay – there’s no such thing as a perfect packing list, just like there’s no such thing as a perfect trip. I like this quotation from the Peace Corps blog post, number one below: “So, how do you know what to pack for two years in the Peace Corps? You don’t, really. Until you get there, you won’t know what your site will be like. It could be extremely rural with no electricity, in the middle of the desert, in the center of a major town or down the street from a shopping center. There’s no surefire way to prepare.”

So, there’s no such thing as a perfect packing list – but there are plenty of time-tested strategies that’ll help you get remember the essentials. One common theme in all these lists is packing light. Just like with picking out a bag, no travel packing list would suggest throwing in extras without careful consideration. Multi-purpose, versatile, even reversible – you want objects that pack a double-punch in order to reduce weight and keep you light on your feet as you seek your first night’s hostel or you spend an eight-hour layover in Amsterdam. You can’t print out a checklist that’ll do it all for you, but you can jot down some of the guiding strategies that all these bloggers include.

  1. The Peace Corps Passport blog calls their Packing List post “The Most Important Peace Corps Packing List Ever” and addresses it to all future volunteers. The author details a solid list, and then says, “Good… now throw it all away.” The second half of the post is packing strategies that hold true for most long-term, independent travel ideas.
  2. The Y Travel Blog starts off with a line about how “you never use everything you pack,” which is important to remember if you’re getting overwhelmed by your empty bag just staring at you.
  3. Half the Clothes has an excellent, detailed, long list. It’s an honest list – “Who knows when you’re going to need a highlighter? After nearly two years, the answer is NEVER.”
  4. Miss Jess Rose‘s thorough list is one of my favorites – she includes abandoned items and essential additions, which are key as you’re stuffing your bag.
  5. Till the Money Runs Out highlights just how little clothing is needed for hot climates. Electronics dominate their list as digital nomads.
  6. Brooke vs. the World lists a female-centric haul. It’s short!
  7. Wandering Sasquatch has quite a short list. I like that one of the final things is beer coozie – packing is truly an individualized endeavour, just like traveling itself!
  8. Planet and Go‘s list is fairly quintessential, and he includes some great tips in his detailed descriptions.
  9. The Savvy Backpacker dedicates their list to Europe, and it’s not exactly short. The second half of this list, though, gives you a lot of items that may or may not be helpful for you. Those are all the gray area things – maybe not needed for everyone, but a percentage of them might be perfect for you!
  10. The author of the post at Travel Independent.info put a lot of work into this. This is one long, detailed list for which you might want to have a notepad nearby. This list might overwhelm you more than help you because it goes on forever. This is the kind of list that gives you every single thing that every person ever who traveled took with them; you get to pick and choose which of those are essential based on the tips and strategies that all the other travel bloggers emphasized.

Okay – two extras: Twenty Something Travel doesn’t include a proper list, but otherwise has important, actionable tips. And Ayngelina wrote a post for 2 Backpackers about things to leave off your packing list – an example of the importance of paring down that long list in number ten above.

2 years ago

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