How do you pack for a year?

We are finally approaching our big date – January 3.  The most common question we have had so far is “what do you pack for a year abroad?”, or “how much do you need to bring to live for a year out of a backpack?”.  So, for our first post we will try and answer that question. Be forewarned – this is a long one! You can scroll down to see the pictures.

Doug’s Packing List

As I pack for the year, I am trying to keep a few things in mind. First off, whatever I want to bring has to ultimately be carried in my pack.  My pack is quite large (85L), so its easy to load it up with heavy gear.  I remember backcountry camping a few years ago in Bon Echo Provincial Park and I had the bag weighing over 50 lbs.  That is just way too much for this trip, especially when the tropical heat is considered.  The sec0nd thing I am trying to remember is that if we are always able to buy what we need overseas, whether that be more/new clothes, something we forgot, etc.


All of this fits surprisingly nicely into the 85 L pack, thanks to use of multiple packing cubes.  Don’t mind the suitcase in the background, that isn’t coming with us.  So with that in mind, here is my initial packing list:

  • 85 L MEC backpack – This is actually the backpack I used in Europe nearly 10 years ago, and have also used for multiple trips since then both in Canada and Overseas.  Its large, there is no mistaking that.  But it is comfortable, versatile, and surprisingly water resistant.
  • Clothes – I’m trying to find the right balance of a small number of clothes, but not so small that we need to do laundry all the time.  This is easier said then done.
    • 4 t-shirts, 3 of which are quick dry material and 1 is merino wool
    • 2 button shirts with long sleeves, but designed for the sleeves to roll up and button as short sleeves.  These are good for cooler locations, changing weather, and also providing a more formal option if necessary.
    • 1 sweater – over the head style, lighter than a soft shell but not a fleece
    • 1 rain coat – North Face with high waterproof rating.
    • 1 pair of merino wool pants
    • 2 pairs of khaki style shorts – 1 quick dry, 1 merino wool
    • 1 pair of yoga/athletic shorts that will double as a bathing suit
    • 5 pairs of socks – hiking quick dry style
    • 6 pairs of underwear, also quick dry style
    • 1 belt with money-hiding zipper on the inside
    • Baseball cap – because I look goofy in Tilly hats
  • Footwear
    • 1 pair of Keen all purpose hiking shoes.  Keen really make fantastic shoes.
    • 1 pair of OluKai flip flops – if you’ve never heard of these, go try some ASAP. They are fantastic, especially if you’re in and out of the water
  • Miscellaneous
    • Head lamp – any traveller’s (or camper’s) best friend
    • Wallet with chain – it may look a little ghetto, but I’ve found this to be a great way to keep money and cards safe while overseas. The chain is a bit of a visual deterrent too.
    • Flashlight/Battery powered glowstick
    • Quick dry towel
    • Sleeping bag – down sleeping bag, 5 degrees C rating. We are using compression sacks to conserve space
    • Toiletries – toothbrush, clippers, etc – all the normal stuff
    • Medication – random meds to cover off typical situations – asprin, polysporin, broad-spectrum antibiotic, etc
    • Day pack – small 10L (approx) pack for every day use. It can be rolled up and kept inside Doug’s large pack for major travel days.
    • Carabiners – these are handier then you can imagine
    • Sleeping mask and ear plugs
    • Pocket knife (Swiss Army Knife)
    • Flat duct tape – because you always need duct tape

Emily’s Packing List


  • 85L MEC backpack-having traveled to Europe 10 years ago(yes, on the same trip as Doug, but not dating at the time) with a different, borrowed backpack that did not fit me at all, and was really uncomfortable on the shoulders and neck, I shopped around extensively across all of the big brands…and wound up with exactly the same backpack as my husband, just 9 years newer. We traveled to Columbia in February 2016, and other than not using enough packing cubes, it was perfect. When strapped on, it conforms to your back thanks to panels that can be adjusted to your frame
  • Clothes-We have done enough traveling to know you can’t wear only your exercise or specifically ‘travel’ gear- you have to bring clothes that can serve as many functions as possible-handle sweat, roll up small, shake out wrinkles well and that you also feel good in, want to send pictures home to your family in. As you will see, there is a repetition of Canadian flags and clothing-Being from Southern Ontario our accent is not that different from a lot of the Midwest and western states, and although most Americans are wonderful, there is a reputation of negativity and we want to make sure to take advantage of our well-earned reputation as Canadians-especially with current events.
    • 3 tank tops(1 merino, 1 more of a rayon/polyester that dries really well and hides all, 1 exercise tank)
    • 3 t shirts(1 exercise shirt, 2 dry-fit type, again a rayon/polyester blend that looks a little dressy, and also could go with anything shirts)
    • 1 fleece sweater, 1 Adidas long-sleeve running shirt, 1 button up, dry-fit material
    • 2 sports bras, 2 regular bras, 3 interchangeable bathing suit tops & bottoms. Here, I know I am taking more than I need but as it all fit, I will figure out which I don’t like and discard as we go
    • 6 pairs underwear, a few of the merino wool that are supposed to resist sweat and bacteria; 5 pairs of socks
    • 1 pair of North Face khaki pants-even though we’re heading to humid locations, we plan to hike and explore the rural areas.
    • 1 long cotton maxi-skirt- this could both somewhat fashionable but also warm in cool ocean areas at night, a defense against mosquitoes, and help if modest dress is necessary
    • 2 pairs black Mountain Warehouse(a British outdoors store, really great prices with so far great quality) yoga leggings, 1 long, 1  calf-length- these can be worn in sweaty climates but also layered under the skirt, dress or pants, and will also be my pajamas when we have to sleep in dorms
    • North Face rain jacket-handy that it folds into its own pocket-it keeps it tight when needing to be packed up, and it doesn’t depend on a separate case that I will inevitably lose
    • 2 pairs of shorts-1 with an internal layer of spandex-great for long days of walking in heat when chaffing might ruin things
    • 1 dress, made of something called Tercel-should resist sweat and bacteria
  • Footwear
  • Miscellaneous
    • fold-able hair-dryer-I know I will take some flack for this that I should be able to travel for a year without this, but having traveled in Europe without one, I found I didn’t feel presentable.  I use one everyday at home and I chose one that has a built in power converter, and weighs 200 gms, so it barely impacts my bag. Bottom line-we have to make our lives function for a year-don;t take things you won’t use, and find a way to accommodate something you will use.
    • GSI Commuter Javapress-I love my coffee, so I didn’t want to go a year suffering through bad instant that most hostels have. A ziplock of coffee, topped up as I find good coffee along the way will keep me caffeinated with the good stuff. (
    • Money waistbelt-Doug has his chain wallet, but as most of women’s clothing doesn’t have pockets, I need to go internal, depending on the area
    • Tilley hat-my ghostly paleness needs protection from a wide brim! Tilley will replace it for life if it wears out too. (
    • A Nike cross-body day bag-folds up very small with very little weight into my main bag, and if necessary I can padlock the main section shut.

Gear shared between both Emily and Doug’s bags:

  • Technology- (this is Emily venting)- this portion of the list astounds me! When planning this trip, I had envisioned leaving Canada virtually unconnected and unencumbered by technology, and below is what we are leaving with, it pains me to say. However we really have pared down what we are taking, and there is a use and reason for everything. Not technology-free-but this is our life for a year, we need to consider what will make our lives easier and doesn’t weigh too much.
    • 10″ touchscreen laptop (ASUS Transformer T100 Chi) – This is a handy little laptop/tablet hybrid with detachable keyboard and a touchscreen. Its small enough to be practical, while still fitting in our packs.  Plus it has a decent webcam for video-chatting with home.
    • Bluetooth mouse – because touchpads are terrible
    • 2 terabyte external HDD – I can’t believe how small 2 TB is these days.  We are going to use this for everyday photo storage, and then upload pictures to Google Drive when we get the chance.
    • 2 cameras – a waterproof, dustproof Olympus Tough-TG870 that is small enough for every day use, and a larger Sony DSC H300 for more advanced shooting as it has a large zoom and more options.  Having 2 cameras also gives us the option to both shoot photos simultaneously if we are somewhere special.
      • Emily here-I considered upgrading our Sony to a full DSLR, as is my preference for cameras, but this one takes very comparable pictures without the hassle of carrying, protecting and worrying about separate lenses. Ultimately the cost of a dream camera was outweighed with the ease of an already paid-for camera, that is physically easier.
    • 2 mobile phones – Doug’s OnePlus 2, and Emily’s LG G3.  Both are being used primarily as music players, though the OnePlus 2 is unlocked pentaband meaning it can be used about anywhere in the world with a local sim card.
    • 2 Kindles – one for each of us, linked together using Kindle Unlimited so we can get access to Amazon’s large “borrowing library”.  We found that Kindle Unlimited has a huge number of travel guidebooks (i.e Lonely Planet), so it basically gives us access to any guidebook we need for any part of the trip.  Given our itinerary and the relatively high cost of physical guidebooks, this will save us a bunch of money.  And in general the Kindles mean we don’t need to carry heavy books around, or go searching for English books in non-English countries.
    • Voltage adapter (because the rest of the world uses 220V) together with various socket adapters.
    • Various cords/cables to charge everything – I’m amazed that we need 4 (FOUR!) separate types of USB cables to keep everything running – Mini USB, Micro USB, USB-C, and “regular” USB.
  • Misc
    • Games – travel chess, travel cribbage, and a deck of cards
    • Camping pot – In case we need something to boil water, cook/eat out of in a hostel. May be needed for Emily’s coffee obsession.
    • PacSafe bag protector ( Honestly, we were on the fence about this one.  We debated back and forth about whether we would actually use it.  You hear stories about bags being robbed in hostel rooms, but neither of us has ever really felt unsafe at a hostel on previous trips.  Given the duration of our trip, its definitely likely we will be in a sketchy hostel at some point and having at least one bag (the one with all the electronics) secured would be nice piece of mind.  So we settled on one PacSafe, and time will tell whether we actually use it.
    • CamelBak All Clear UV Purification system – Our incredibly useful wedding gift from Emily’s dad, this can be used to purify 750ml of water in about 60 seconds.  We have a pre-filter too, since the UV system only disinfects and cannot deal with suspended solids.
    • Ziplock bags – these can be really handy to keep things organized and dry.
    • Scrubba wash bag-Also on the fence about this one, mainly due to the cost, but this was a fantastic Christmas gift from Emily’s sister, and I think it will be useful-essentially a dry bag, but with the addition of a release plug and plastic nodules on the inside, which along with soap(Pocket Laundry Wash-the kind that come in small dry sheets) -this way we can separate the dirty from clean, and don’t need to take over a sink. (

7 thoughts on “How do you pack for a year?

  1. Well written friends! So excited for your amazing adventure. Stay safe, cant wait to meet up. We love you! – Carina and Mat


  2. I’m looking forward to hearing & seeing photos about your adventures !!! Great 1st blog !! be safe, have fun and keep us all posted !!!


  3. Em… Hair dryer is essential… and this coming from a seasoned traveller. It is not nice not feeling good about yourself for an entire year. Been there, done it, and would pack the hair dryer:))))


  4. If I ever find myself packing for a year long trip, I will be talking to the two of you – very detailed and organized 🙂
    Have an amazing adventure!


  5. Hi Doug and Emily!! I am so happy we got to spend time at our favorite local yoga studio together on Wednesday evenings last summer. I am so inspired by you both and look forward to staying connected as you travel!

    With love, Michelle


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s