If you’ve landed here, no doubt you already know that there’s a ton of information about packing for a gap year. People have different styles, different interests, different geographies, and of course definite opinions about the right way to go about it, especially when it comes to the amount of stuff you choose to bring.
Below you will find my (Victor) men’s packing list for 7+ months of travel in:
- the Netherlands, UK, Bulgaria (early summer)
- Japan (fall)
- Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia
- Australia/New Zealand (summer)
The top of this post is a straightforward list of what we I brought with me. Below that I go into a little more depth on why I bring what I do along with thoughts on overall utility of various items, where I might have too much, and any commentary on specific brands or products I love.
Hope it’s helpful if you’re deciding to travel the world.
Deciding what to bring on your gap year
Mica and I are not minimalist travelers per se (as you’ll see by my list below). We will definitely be checking a bag. But we’re also planning on being mobile, able to walk from a bus or train station to a hotel etc. That meant limiting ourselves to one backpack along with a carry on sized shoulder bag each.
The only two other unique considerations for us were (a) the level of backpacking (trekking) we are planning to do and thus the amount of gear we wanted to bring in order to balance self-sufficiency vs. overall portability when we are out of the mountains and (b) the fact that we like to workout everyday.
Victor’s Packing List
Everything below fits easily into the Osprey Atmos backpack + Chrome bag carry-on with room to spare. I’m not into pure minimalism here. I like to feel like I look put together. But where something is truly superflous I’ve noted it. After all, what’s the point of being on the road if you can’t carry a couple of things purely for the joy of it?
The list below is sorted by general gear, hiking-specific equipment, and clothes respectively.
General Gear for Long-term Travel
Packing Gear/Luggage – The Gear that Holds the Other Gear
- Osprey Atmos 65L Pack
- Osprey Pack Transporter (airport pack cover)
- Chrome Messenger Bag (all-time favorite bag)
- Small Daypack (fits inside Chrome Messenger Bag)
- Various Packing Cubes (I swear by these)
- A couple of compressible “vacuum” pack stuff sacks (these are OK, made by Travis)
- Folding cup (these are awesome)
- Spork (because we love them, not because we need them)
- Steripen water filtration device
- Swiss Army Knife
- Quilt – Good to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, packs to size of a nalgene bottle
- Sleep pad (also size of a nalgene bottle)
- 1.5L Camelback
- Emergency Blanket (for day-hikes, probably superfluous)
- SPOT emergency device (we already owned this, otherwise would have rented as needed)
- Asus Chromebook 434 + charger
- Samsung S8 + charger
- Kindle Paperwhite + mini USB cable
- Anker portable charger
- Bose noise canceling headphones (may be sending these home, but they’re nice)
- Cheap ear-bud style headphones
- Bunch of plug adapters (Mica has a fancy universal one, I’ve got what I’ve had from previous trips)
- Extra USB-C and extra mini USB cable for devices
- Mini clothes line
- A bunch of therabands for strength training
- Golf ball (pressure point release, I’ve had plantar fascia for awhile)
- Compression socks (see plantar above)
- Some books
- Some guidebooks (these are bulky, I’d consider going electronic)
- Inflatable travel pillow
I’ve got them. The normal-ish amount. Don’t stress over cutting pack weight or size here too much unless you’re going pure carry-on.
This looks like a lot (and it is!) but other than the jeans it takes no space.
- 1 black jeans (bulky/heavy yes, but versatile. Keeping at least through fall in Japan)
- 1 black linen pants (tailored enough to wear out, but mostly lounge pants)
- 1 lightweight dark green chino-esque pants
- 1 blue-grey mountain hardwear climbing pants (super comfy, tailored enough for town, camp layer)
- 1 black Proof Nomad shorts (great, breathable, stretchy, spill-proof. Dressy all the way to workout)
- 1 light green shorts
- 1 light grey free fly hybrid short (super light, breathable, comfortable hiker, looks good, can swim in)
- 1 pair blue workout shorts (also look fine for walking around in)
- 1 pair black workout shorts
- 1 pair of board-shorts
- 5 capilene boxers (REI + ex oficio mix)
- 2 boxer briefs
- 1 pair of sleep shorts
- 7 pairs of socks (mostly low running-style smartwools)
- 1 Lightweight light-blue henley (Free Fly brand)
- 1 Mid/Heavier dark greyish henley (also free fly)
- 1 Blue button up long-sleeve shirt
- 1 white zip-up hoodie (on it’s last legs and will be tossed)
- 3 workout shirts (1 is more a mountain shirt that is urban too)
- 2 Proof Merino “72” hour T-shirts (one T-shirt, 1 has 3 buttons, these are great for travel but $$)
- 2 cotton Ts
- 1 breathable but dressy-ish short-sleeve polo shirt
I admit, in regular life I have a bit of a shoe addiction. Of the shoes below I could easily ditch one (Suavs or SeaVees) with no impact, and I could get away without both fairly easily if necessary.
- Arc’terx Norvan LD Trail Running Shoe – backpacking and hiking but fine in the city too
- OC Cloud Running shoe – Light and comfortable enough for logging miles when running
- Suav slip-on black shoes – takes 0 space, and since they’re black, can go slightly dressier
- SeaVees Off-white surfer kicks – Casual, stylish, also compressible. Super unnecessary 🙂
- Havana flip-flops
“Camping Specific” Clothes
These are all stored in a “vacuum” style bag, and are super compressed
- 1 light down jacket (Eddie Bauer)
- 1 tight base layer (Underarmour)
- 1 super worn out fleece vest (this is probably not necessary)
- 1 Poly-pro leggings
- 1 lightweight pair of gloves
- 1 wool hat
- 1 rain shell (MyTrail – super light and packable, not super breathable)
More gear details for fellow long-term travel nerds
Pack – I’m using the Osprey Atmos 65L pack. Mostly because it’s the backpack I already own. It’s comfortable, versatile, big enough, and as a bonus, has a side zip to open it which is convenient vs. a pure top-loader for this type of trip. I could easily fit my stuff in a smaller pack, but compressing this one down solves the same issue.
Pack Transporter – The main problem with backpacks that you check is all the straps can get caught up or damaged. Both Mica and I are using the Osprey Airporter LP travel cover in size small. The Small size fits the Atmos 65 fine as long as the brain, or top of pack, isn’t completely full. This should work because if you are using the transporter bag you can always put something outside your pack but inside the transporter. I also read, and appreciated, the fact that when we are backpacking or perhaps traveling light somewhere for a week or less we could fill the airporter and treat it as a standalone duffel bag that gets left behind.
On Clothes – Make sure your clothes can mix and match. All my bottoms are Black-Green-lighter Blue-Grey, and those go with the tops that are dark blue, sand, white, dark-grey etc. Once you have the base color scheme (and I complicated life with green on the bottom) you can mix in some patterns or whatever. One area I’m light is the ability to layer tops within a city. Sure I can put on a camping base layer and the down jacket will serve on top of a long-sleeve in most cases but it isn’t the most stylish.
Electronics– I write a lot and run a business (www.gostudy.io) from the road. Chromebook is a new, cheaper experiment for me vs. a full Windows computer. Jury is still out on whether it’s a permanent move. I love the size and portability but there are some definite trade-offs.
On Camping – You may have noticed the lack of a tent listed. We are doing a lot of hut-to-hut in Europe, will assess renting (or buying) or more huts or home-stays in Japan and Vietnam, and plan to either ship or buy a tent for New Zealand and Australia when we get there. The other piece of gear we thought long and hard about bringing were poles. There are some out there that break-down more than ours but we figured if we did a few hikes and needed them we can always buy some. If you have a traditional sleeping bag and aren’t going anywhere super cold, definitely investigate the switch to a quilt. My 40 degree quilt + sleeping pad system together are only the size of 2 nalgenes.
A few pieces of gear I really love
- The free fly hybrid shorts – bathing suit, workout, hike, town short all in a lightweight offering
- The free fly henley’s – Nothing is as comfortable
- The Proof Nomad Shorts – super versatile
- The Proof 72 Hour Merino Shirt – really does keep odor out and is light/comfy
- Chrome Messenger Bag – I have a size they don’t make anymore but I can live out of this bag for a week or treat it like a pretty small carry-on (the Citizen is slightly smaller but similar)
- The Suav slip-on shoes are super functional on the road in urban areas because they pack to NOTHING. The SeaVees are also super compressible, but don’t roll-up in the same way