what to pack on a rtw trip

Less than you think, but still way too much. We carry around about 16kg (Joe) and 12kg (Hisako). Here is the lowdown on what we decided to pack on our trip for a year around the world.

You can download a checklist of all the items below by viewing the Google Spreadsheet. From the file menu you can select “Download as…” to download an Excel file to your machine or simply copy the spreadsheet to your Google Docs folder.


The packing items below are color coded as such:

  • joe
  • hisako
  • both


  • karimor cougar
    Hisako’s 45-55L backpack
  • fanny pack
    extremely portable and quick access. hisako carries the money, so very handy.
  • shoulder bag
    little vulnerable to bag slashing, but has lots of pockets and works great for Hisako
  • kelty
    Joe’s 90L backpack
  • day pack
    has a waist strap as well. been lovin’ the waist strap for the extra support when we stuff the bag full of heavy things.
  • rain covers
    rarely, to never use these. wish we had some backpack covers that we could wrap around and lock for the bus rides.

We decided to pack fairly light for our trip… although you might not believe that by looking at the extensive list below… and the 90L + 50L bag combination is working out really well for us. The 90L bag tends to come in around 15 to 16kg when we check in at the airport. Going over that can cause you extra headaches.


  • furoshiki
    japanese patterned clothe to wrap clothes up in
  • sandals
    been useful for hiking and giving the shoes a breather.
  • alpaca leg warmer
    bought in Bolivia and great for cold bus rides.
  • packing bag
    used to throw all my clothes into, one for tops and other other for bottoms
  • shirts
    light cotton shirts work the best
  • long sleeve shirts
    never use one of the shirts, 2 would be suffiecient
  • thermal shirt
    absolute necessity for hikes and cold nights
  • pants
    bought one more pair in Peru. cargo is ideal, jeans are heavy and don’t dry fast
  • shorts
    one’s all I’ve needed
  • swimming trunks / suit
    quick dry is good
  • fleece
    use all the time, get a good one
  • hoodie
    use all the time, get a good one
  • socks
    one pair of thick hiking socks
  • boxers / underwear
    just average joe boxers & briefs
  • cap
    use it more than sunglasses, very handy when raining
  • cold weather hat
    should have gotten one that covers my ears completely
  • rain jacket
    rarely used
  • towel
    small, quick dry towel
  • liner
    anti-insect liner that’s a blessing in poor hostels
  • gloves
    rarely used
  • flip flops
    great for the showers, beach, walking around the hostel.
  • hiking shoes
    the solomons with the kevlar drawstring are amazing. easy one, easy off.

Clothes take up a lot of weight and space in your backpack. We recommend going with as little as possible, but that does mean you have to do your laundry more frequently.


  • canon camera battery
    good to have backups.
  • canon ixy
    fits in your pocket, not too expensive.
  • canon battery charger
    for the Canon IXY
  • rechargeable batteries
    the eneloop batteries get me 200 to 300 shots.
  • battery charger
    panasonic model, but works with the Sanyo batteries.
  • a/v cable
    Never used. (yet)
  • canon PowerShot SX120 IS
    has a 10x zoom, very handy.
  • headphones
    for the two iPods. one has a microphone attached.
  • head lamps
    highly recommended.
  • cell phone
    GSM enabled phones, but Skype has been our phone of choice.

The netbook and iPod touch have been our most indispensable items on the trip so far. The netbook allows us to research things as we go along and stay in touch with home. The touch has given us books, dictionaries, and games all in the palm of our hand. The touch is also small enough that you can fit it in your pocket without looking like you are carrying anything expensive around.

Medical Gear

Definitely good to have the IB profen or whatever pain killers you can bring along. Never know what’s going to hit you. Altitude and motion sickness pills can also make some otherwise terrible journeys very enjoyable.

Personal Hygiene

  • safety razor & feather blades
    better at cutting through a beard than today’s standard razors. little hard to find replacements.
  • ear picks
    japanese ear picks
  • hand towels
    bundle up items or dry yourself off. lightweight
  • good luck charms
    from the family and friends
  • toothbrush cases
    keeps a wet toothbrush from getting everything wet and hair off your toothbrush.
  • earl plugs
    for noisy dorm rooms.

Plastic bags are your friends when it comes to personal items like these. Helps you to stay organized and provide a handy mat to place things on when there is nothing else in the showers.


  • travel pouch
    keep the valuables safe under your pants.
  • skimming protector
    place in your wallet to stop thieves from scanning your passport, id’s, etc.
  • debit card
    visa plus enabled. well supported in south america.
  • small wallet
    one for hisako and one for joe
  • round the world tickets
    printed out
  • contact numbers
    addresses and numbers of friends and family
  • yellow fever vaccination cards
    necessary for certain countries around the world
  • vaccination history
    from our doctor, with vaccine and date listed
  • travel insurance
    good for a year and covers you as soon as you leave the door
  • international driver’s license
    just in case we want to drive overseas
  • credit card
    a backup in case we lose one
  • bank card
    a backup in case we lose one
  • driver’s license
    one for each of us
  • hostel international card
    one for each of us
  • mileage card
    one for each of us
  • passport
    one for each of us
  • passport case
    with skimming protection and enough pockets to fit all our cards

Of all the things on the list, these items take the longest to get in order and can be among the most expensive. New passports, vaccinations, etc are very pricey. Make copies of everything and leave one copy with a loved one or friend back in your home country before departing.

Eating & Cooking

  • mugs
    not pictured. making sure that the lids seal well and that the handle connects with the cup at both ends.
  • wolfskin water bottles
    handy at times, but we buy bottled water all the time and rarely find ourselves using them.
  • cutlery set
    ingenious fork, spoon, chopstick set from Japan

Most of this stuff has been fairly useless to us on the trip so far, but if we were camping more it wouldn’t be. Depends a lot on your mode of travel. If you are going to be staying in hostel primarily, keep in mind that they usually have all the cutlery and pans you’ll ever need.


  • locks
    various sizes. small ones work well with zippers and some hostel lockers. the retractable locks are great for the backpacks.

Great idea to invest in good locks. They’ll get battered and beaten on the road.

Books & Games

  • small notebook
    for keeping track of expense, fits in my pocket.
  • book
    some light reading for the road
  • journal

Odds & Ends

  • vacuum bags
    helps compress your clothes down to manageable size and keeps things somewhat waterproof.
  • sunglasses
    get them dark and strong, sounds like coffee
  • liner
    for those not-so-clean hostel beds
  • small flashlight
    clip it to you day pack and always have a light source
  • eye masks
    for bright dorm rooms and bus rides.

The rope and sleeping bag liner have been great purchases. Some of the other things in this list have been used only once or twice. Try to keep the amount of extras that you bring on the trip to a minimum.


There were no packing of cats during the making of this page, despite Riku-chan’s numerous attempts to be included in the medical supplies and as a security measure.

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