We’ve been in the long-term travel game for 15 years now, and we’ve seen lots of travel gear trends come and go. Here are a collection of our favorite gear items – from clothes to gadgets to bags – and where to get them.
Luggage and other packing stuff
Gregory Z65 backpack
I took my very first backpacking trip back in 2002 - a Southwest US road trip - with our very first multi-day hike (to the bottom of the Grand Canyon). I bought this pack for that trip, and it's also the one that accompanied me on my very first trip to Europe in 2005 and our RTW trip in 2008-2009. I still have it, and it's still going strong (though I've now replaced it with something smaller). It's extremely durable (11 years and counting), super comfortable, and is just a solid all around backpack.
REI Lookout 40L backpack
Though this isn’t the pack I personally brought on my RTW trip (see item above), I have since switched to this for all my travels, no matter the length of trip. This pack will only work for light packers, and if that’s you, this is perfect. It can be carried on airplanes, has easy access to everything in it, several pockets all around it for storing smaller items and keeping everything nice and organized. It’s very well built, with nice waist and shoulder straps for backcountry hikes you may do.
Deuter Futura Pro 42 Pack (women’s)
This pack is a unisex pack, but it’s the one my wife (5’2″ tall) brought on our RTW trip. Awesome because it can be carried on to planes, extremely durable (still in great shape and her go-to travel pack 5+ years later), and really comfortable (she wore it on several multi-day hikes like the Inca Trail and Torres del Paine). In my experience, any solid pack that has nice shoulder and waist straps, can be used for backcountry hiking, and is small enough to be carried on to planes is a winner (and there aren’t a lot of them).
Gregory Jade 38 Backpack (Women’s)
From one of our readers, “It is just the right size. I can load what I need and everything is fairly easy to get to – with top, front, and bottom pack access. It is lightweight (3 lbs 2 oz), but you can tell it is durable. I have been carrying it with me for all my travels. I don’t have to check-in anything. When the plane lands, I just walk out the door without worrying about lost baggage. Plus, it has a raincover.”
Kathmandu Hybrid Trolley
Not everyone is a backpack person. Here’s an alternative. From one of our readers, “It’s more of a suitcase, but I love having the option of carrying it as a backpack when our room is on the 3rd floor and there are no lifts in the hostel.”
Pacsafe Day Bag
This was our go-to day bag for the vast majority of our trip. Using a smaller backpack is always an option, but they are much easier for thieves to snatch. This bag was the perfect size – it held our DSLR, smaller point and shoot, a guidebook, and a fleece or jacket. Plus it’s super durable and has many anti-theft features. Comes in several sizesand styles, too.
From one of our readers, “RFID protected, holds my passport, and is a slim design to fit in most bags.”
Eagle Creek Packing Cubes
Packing cubes have literally changed how I pack. We’ve all been there – rifling through our backpacks or suitcases, throwing shirts and socks and underwear all around the room, looking for one specific item. Next thing you know, you have a total mess on your hands. With packing cubes, you can organize all your stuff, and it’s super easy to find what you’re looking for. There are all different sizes (and brands) to choose from – like the one pictured here, smaller ones, and “envelopes”for your nicer clothes.
Unless you have to work during your trip, a tablet like an iPad is a great tool for the world traveler. It’s small and light enough to rationalize bringing it with you, and if necessary, you can get a keyboard and mouse to make it more “work functional.” The only downsides are cost and making you a target for theft – but any expensive gadget will have the same downfalls.
There are countless tablet/laptop/e-reader options, and it’s all about personal preference. From one of our readers, “It is light-weight and you can have many travel guide books on board without the eight of book, and can get bus schedules, advice, ratings, and purchase tickets easily, and you can use it as a phone with Skype. Update facebook with photos, etc. fits in pocket.”
My wife has the original kindle, I’ve had the Nook, and now I have one of these Kindle Paperwhites. The newest one is my favorite e-reader. Super lightweight, easy to read in the brightest sun, plus a built in light for dark rooms/buses/trains that doesn’t strain your eyes. Great for travel.
Belkin Mini-Travel Swivel Surge Protector
This bad boy has three protected AC outlets, two powered USB outlets, and a rotating design that is compact and easy to use in those tight spaces (in hostels, airports, buses, etc.). We’ve come a long way over the years when it comes to being able to charge our gear.
Royal Robbins short sleeve
Along with comfort, durability is also extremely important. I went on my RTW trip in 2008-2009, so many of the clothing items I recommend are ones that ended up lasting the longest, and this shirt is the winner (not to mention that it also weighs next to nothing while still being durable) – crucial for long-term travel). I finally retired it in 2012 after a year of wearing at least twice a week, bringing it on two other multi-week trips, and wearing it at home during warmer months. 4+ years of constant wear.
PrAna Vertigo T
This is a great t-shirt for you hikers out there. Heavier than a regular cotton t, plus it’s moisture wicking, so nice for those multi-day treks when you’re alternating between sweating and being cool. Because it’s a bit heavier, it makes for a great layering shirt in the mountains yet is breathable and remains cool when the sun comes out. Buy Now
Ex Officio long-sleeve button up
Another versatile, durable shirt. This one is long-sleeve, and depending on what color you go with, it can work as a “nicer” shirt if you go to any fancy restaurants or are the clubbing type. The cool thing about this shirt is that it’s really lightweight and the sleeves can be rolled up and buttoned. I wore this in the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia and India, so it’s one of those clothing items that can work for many situations, which is essential for the long-term traveler. Buy Now
Patagonia Capilene lightweight zip shirt
For the long-term traveler who is adding in some cooler weather climates or for those who are into hiking, this is a great layering shirt. It’s really warm while also being compact and lightweight – easy for packing. It’s moisture-wicking as well and is great to layer when on a hike or in a place where the weather is cooler. They also have ladies versions of this shirt, and my wife and I both had one of these on our trips. We did ditch them after South America and New Zealand since they wouldn’t have been much use in the warm, humid climates of Southeast Asia and India.
If you’re heading to cooler climates, it’s all about layering. A microfleece is the perfect layering piece, as it’s warm, lightweight, and breathable. I brought an REI microfleece on my RTW, but those have since been discontinued. I own the North Face one as well, but there are lots of different brands that are all pretty similar – shop around for your favorite.
Yes, you will look like a tool. No, you don’t want to try to go out in these. But if you are planning on hiking, these really are great for the trail. Weather can change in an instant when in the mountains, and the ability to quickly change from pants to shorts is quite nice, plus they weigh next to nothing. Just make sure these aren’t the only types of pants/shorts you bring – one pair is most likely enough. They have women’s versions as well.
If you’re heading to climates that might get a bit chilly and rainy, you’re going to need a jacket. You don’t want some big monstrosity, so you need to find one that’s lightweight yet still warm and can hold off some rain. This jacket does the job, and it’s durable, comfortable, and small. It isn’t fully waterproof, but if you treat it with a waterproof spray, you can make it damn close.
Ex Officio Underwear
If I had to choose one item out of all the clothes and gear I brought with me during my year-long RTW adventure, these bad boys would be it. Lightweight, moisture-wicking, dries fast, and most importantly of all, prevents that nasty, sweaty, painful rash in that undesirable body area that all travelers have had at some point (usually in a hot, humid climate). I brought 4 of these on my trip (the only underwear I brought), and I wore them for another TWO years before having to throw them away. Don’t ask questions, just get some and thank me later.
Comfy Women’s Yoga Pants
For the ladies out there, you’re going to want something comfy, and these fit the bill. These yoga-type pants are obviously popular these days, so they can do double duty and don’t have to be relegated to long bus trips and lounging around the hostel. They may not be great for hitting up the bars, but they work just fine for wandering around cities and going out to eat.
Arc’teryx Women’s Parapet Pants
These versatile women’s pants were my wife’s go-to pants on our RTW trip. They are quick drying and lightweight, which is always essential for long-term travel. They can be worn for all types of occasions – wandering around cities, out to casual restaurants, they’re even good for some light hiking. They became even more versatile after she added buttons and some fabric to be able to roll them up into capris – a great way to make use of what you got!
A skort is a good, versatile piece of clothing for women that doesn’t take up much room at all in the bag. This one looks like a wrap skirt, so it worked for wearing out and about the town (nothing super fancy obviously), and it was also good for light hikes or even a bike ride. Finding clothes that work for several different scenarios is key when packing for a long-term trip.
Chaco Flip Flops
Flip flops are a part of nearly every long-term travelers wardrobe. Beaches, hostel showers, hot climates – a good pair of flip flops are invaluable. These Chaco flip-flops are crazy durable. It’s been more than 4 years since I’ve returned from my big trip (returned October 2009), and I still wear these same pair of flip flops that accompanied me on my trip. They have ladies options as well, and my wife also had a pair that she was equally thrilled with.
Chaco hippie sandals
Sure, you may look like you just showed up from Phish tour, and no, you won’t be winning any fashion contests while wearing them, but if you are not a huge fan of shoes (I’m not) and will be traveling in hotter climates, these are great. You can walk in them for days, do light hiking (I’ve actually seen people do multi-day hikes in these, but that’s personal preference), and they are crazy durable and will last many, many years. Like the flip flops above, there are ladies options.
Merrell Men’s Hiking Shoes
I’ve never been a boots guy myself (despite the name of the company I work for); I prefer shoes. It’s all preference, I know, and if you have weak ankles and plan on hiking, by all means, get some boots. But these bad boys have served me well over the years, accompanying me on hikes on the Inca Trail, the W in Torres del Paine, several other treks in Patagonia, and a 5-day hike in the Indian Himalayas. Solid hiking shoes for those planning on doing some trekking during their travels (plus they take up less space than boots).
Columbia Women’s Mini-boot
From one of our readers, “Found this in Japan, it’s great for walking around the city or tramping outdoors. A little more fashionable than your usual hiking boots.”
Good socks are crucial when you’re a traveler, especially a long-term one. Chances are you’ll be doing tons of walking, and many travelers add hiking adventures to their trips. Regardless of how active you are, there’s nothing worse than blisters, and Smartwool socks (or any sock made of merino wool) are great for wicking moisture and preventing those nasty little blisters.
From one of our readers, “For the slightly older traveler, these are compression socks that look great (you’d never know that they’re compression socks)! I just wore them on a 2 wk trip to Germany/Italy – perfect for the long flight over, plus wore a couple of days when I wanted something warm on my feet/hiked.”