I’ve been working on this list for around eleven years. What I mean, is that in those years I’ve travelled through many different climates, often on the same trip. Sometimes carrying too much; occasionally a bit too little. Over the years, through much trial and error, I’ve learned what must be packed; and more importantly, what can be left behind. Finally, over the last 18 months, through 17 counties with temperatures ranging from -12°C to +38°C, I’ve finally figured out the perfect combination of gear. This is my all-encompassing, ultimate long-term packing list for men.
Long-Term Packing List for Men
Packing for a long-term trip across different climate types can be a tricky balance. This is not a minimalist packing list. Then again, if packed correctly, it can fit into a 40L, carry-on-sized bag. Also, unlike most packing lists that are just that — a list of items — I’m going to break down exactly why I choose most of these items. That way, you can decide for yourself if you really need it.
Finally, this is a guideline. If your own journey is taking you to Norway in January, you’re probably going to need a warmer jacket.
Short Sleeved T-shirts
For simple, everyday wear I love just throwing on a simple, comfortable t-shirt. I typically bring 3 or 4, not out of necessity so much as having some options. Sure Design make great travel shirts, they’re lightweight, colourful and cheap. I also wear the brand, ‘Icebreaker’ shirts. They’re a little pricier, but the awesome benefits of Merino wool make them worth the cost. Easy to wash quick to dry, and they deter odors if you don’t have time to do either!
Button-up Short Sleeved T-shirts
To change things up a little, it’s nice to have some buttons and a collar in the wardrobe as well. The fabric is usually a little tougher than a basic t-shirt and the buttons allow you to let the breeze flow through on those really hot days. I wear several different brands, but North Face and Merrell really stand out as favourites.
Long-Sleeved Button-up shirt
I typically carry two long-sleeved collared shirts. One is a more casual shirt from Columbia, that is very lightweight and UV blocking This is my go-to flight shirt. Not only is it super comfortable, but it helps in making me look less like a grubby backpacker.
The other shirt is a little more dressy. I actually wear it very rarely and at times wonder why I carry it at all. But it’s perfect for any kind of special occasion. Maybe you’re invited over for a nice dinner or heading to a fancy restaurant. Sometimes it’s just nice to dress up once in a while.
Prana Bridger Jeans
So many people will tell you never to pack jeans, and their reasons aren’t necessarily wrong. “They’re heavy,” and “They take too long to dry” are perfectly valid reasons to avoid jeans. That being said, jeans are great, and if you can find the right pair, you’re gold. And a couple of years ago I found them. The Prana Bridger jeans have a fabric blend that is perfect for travel. They’re far-lighter than regular denim, dry faster, and even have a bit of stretch.
Casual Pants – MEC Concourse
These are the perfect all-purpose travel pants. They’re comfortable, lightweight, quick-drying, and have a zip pocket for stashing cash. Most importantly, these pants look good. These pants can be worn on a hiking trail, in the city, or at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Finally, I like to pack light hiking pants like the Silver Ridge from Columbia. These are perfect hiking pants when things might get a little messy for the dressier version above. If you don’t care about fashion, they have a version that zip-off into shorts, which can be great when things get too hot.
If the weather calls for it (and sometimes when it doesn’t) I will be wearing shorts. Here, I change it up from time to time. MEC makes some great styles, as does North Face and Columbia. Try to look for a pair with at least one zippered pocket, I like to keep a small bit of spending cash in there to avoid bringing my wallet everywhere I go.
For the beach. I have no specific brand loyalty here, I’ve worn everything from Quicksilver to Billabong. I even bought an un-branded pair once in Goa that lasted me three years.
Icebreaker Merino Base Layer Set
These are probably used the least, especially the leggings. Though when they are needed, there’s no substitute. The fact that the shirt is casual-looking enough that it can be worn on its own is a nice bonus.
Again, these are personal preference. Just look for something lightweight and quick-drying. If you’re the commando type, even better.
I carry five pairs of socks: two pairs at regular length, two pairs athletic “ankle socks” and one pair heavier hiking socks. This covers me for any situation I’ve ever found myself in. And because the colour of your socks don’t really matter, consider buying these directly from Icebreaker at their end-of-season sale.
When it gets a little cooler out, this one from Prana is my go-to sweater. The material is strong but very soft, and the zippered chest pocket is great for a bit of cash. It’s perfect for long plane rides and bus trips that crank the A/C.
Initially, I was hesitant to carry a “winter” coat at all, but I’m thankful I did. My Icebreaker has come in handy more often than I expected. I’ve worn it from the mountains of southern Mexico to the steppes of Moldova during winter. It’s incredibly warm, especially considering how light it is. And it rolls up into a fairly compact ball, taking up minimal space in the bag.
Another item most minimalists will shun is a raincoat. “It doesn’t rain enough to justify the space,” and “just wear a garbage bag if you need to,” are two things I’ve often read. Spend a month in Medellín, Bristol; or Vietnam during the monsoon, and tell me a raincoat isn’t justified. Again, the one I use is from MEC, but nearly every outdoor clothing company has a fantastic, lightweight option.
The perfect travel belt? I’m sure there are better options in existence, but none as affordable as this. Arcade belts use elastic webbing and plastic buckles. This means you’ll get the perfect adjustment for your waist and there’s no need to remove it for airport security.
I’ve worn Merrell since I started travelling back in 2007. It’s not that I’m some obsessed fanboy, it just happens that every time I need an upgrade, Merrell happens to be the best option. I try to get something that’s fairly rugged and can handle some rough terrain, yet still has a casual-enough look to it.
Again, personal preference. I bought a pair in Bangkok for about four dollars. I wore them every single day for over three months before they finally broke.
Another fairly contested subject is how many shoes is too much. Previously, I’ve only travelled with hiking shoes and flip flops. Recently, however, I’ve added something more casual — again, for special occasions, meetings, etc. I currently have a pair of Vans that are great for casual use, but horrible for travel. They weigh too much for their size and the flat sole is horribly uncomfortable for long walks.
I’m still on a mission to figure this out
Another option that rarely makes an appearance is the toque. Now, this isn’t the cheesy Canadian style with a puff ball on top. It takes up almost no space but is irreplaceable when the temperature drops close to freezing.
As a bald dude, I need to protect my dome. I don’t really have a particular style, I just throw in a baseball cap of some sort.
These are fairly standard and don’t need a lot of explaining, but I’ll make some notes when necessary.
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Unless you’re someone who needs something specific or prefers the electric variety, anything will do. I’ve never been to any country that didn’t have a decent selection of both toothbrushes and toothpaste.
GoTubes are great for liquids like soap, sunscreen and aftershave. It’s easier to pack a few of these than a full-sized bottle.
Again, this is personal preference. I use a Wahl to keep the beard in check. It’s compact and decently priced.
As someone who shaves their head on a regular basis, I love a good razor. When I’m at home, Harry’s is my go-to. Unfortunately going with something fancy or specialized while travelling can lead to issues. Although razor cartridges are found almost anywhere, in many places it’s tricky to find the latest models. When on the road, I tend to stick with something a little older and wide-spread like a Gillette Mach3.
Again, something found everywhere.
Keep them in…
There are a ton of great toiletry bags out there for travel. Personally, I use the Eagle Creek Wallaby because I’ve found nothing better. It’s got a ton of pockets of all sizes, it’s rugged, hangs on almost anything, and is fairly compact when closed.
I remember back when I started travelling I used to carry around a full-size towel. It took up so much space and added so much weight. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for me to discover and pick up a Packtowel. These are incredibly lightweight and fit into a pouch the size of a small book. The cloth itself is absorbent, fast-drying and very durable.
These are a fantastic, multi-purpose square of fabric that I use almost every day. Typically worn as a head covering, I also use mine as a pillow, a scarf, dust mask or emergency towel. I’ve even used it as a “hobo” pouch.
Expensive enough that the build is quality and the lenses have UV protection, but not so pricey you can’t afford to lose (or break) them.
Pick one up at almost any hardware store; preferably one with multiple-sized rings. Use this for washing clothes in the hostel sink.
The Travelon clothesline is cheap and reliable. The twists in the line hold everything in place, no need for pins. The only downside is that the suction cups are pretty useless once weight is added. Thankfully, the hooks are perfect.
Rope will always come in handy. I throw about 20 feet of paracord into my bag before every trip. And I always find myself using it for all kinds of odd reasons.
For those days when you have an unfinished bottle and you need to catch a bus. Fill one of these, from Platypus, up and throw it in your bag. They’re flexible and puncture resistant.
Having a multi-tool will get you out of a ton of situations. Hostel can opener broken? Need to carve a door stopper out of a piece of wood? Have some string or rope needs to be cut? Screw coming loose on… something? I use my Leatherman at least once a week for some odd job. I couldn’t imagine travelling without one.
For keeping notes the old fashioned way. Sure, a smartphone will do, but there’s something special about physically writing in a classic Moleskine.
For writing in your journal.
I never would have bought something like this in my earlier travels, it just seems so paranoid. On more recent trips, however, I carry a lot of electronics and often visit countries known for petty theft. This portable safe weighs next to nothing and goes completely flat for packing. I throw all my important documents and gear inside and lock it to something in my room.
While nothing prevents theft 100%, the Pacsafe safe give a extra bit of deterrent gives a little peace of mind.
Water Bottle Nomader
Plastic sucks. So does dying of thirst. Avoid both with this awesome collapsible water bottle from Nomader. We’ve been rocking these bottles for nearly two years. They’re puncture resistant, hold their form, and roll into a fairly tight bundle when not in use.
There are several options for water purification such as tablets and filter straws, but we haven’t found anything that compares to a Steri-Pen. It uses UV light to kill all the nasty bugs in questionable tap water. By using this over the past 18 months, we’ve avoided using literally thousands of plastic bottles.
Basic First Aid
Unless you’re a field medic, there’s no need to go overboard here. I carry a simple pouch with a few basic first-aid tools. I usually include a small assortment of bandages, safety pins, alcohol swabs, tweezers, and antibiotic cream.
In addition to any personal prescriptions you require, these are a few extras that I suggest bringing. Ibuprofen, for headaches; Imodium (loperamide), for when you get the shits; Benadryl (antihistamine), for allergies; and Gravel (dimenhydrinate), for motion sickness/nausea.
As well, travellers diarrhoea treatment such as ciprofloxacin or azithromycin, and any other destination-related medications you may require (altitude sickness, malaria, etc…). Talk to your doctor about these.
This is what I’ve been using for the last few years. It’s actually a 40L main pack with a removable 15L day pack. The bag and hardware are solid, and I’ve not had a single issue with it. There’s a reason so many people use this bag. I highly recommend checking it out!
Finally, to keep things nice and compact, these packing cubes from Eagle Creek are some of the best travel items I’ve ever purchased. Not only will they keep your bag nice and organized, they compress everything into a tight bundle, allowing you to fit more into your bag.