How We Fit the Next Year into Four Packs

We are officially leaving TOMORROW – October 7, 2015 – so I thought it would be interesting for myself and hopefully others, to reflect on our packing process.  How do you pack for a year of travel?  How do you stuff one year of possessions into a single backpack?  How do you pack for different climates, altitudes, cultures, and situations?

Needless to say, packing for a year abroad with just one big backpack is difficult and it has been a struggle for both Dan and myself for the past couple of weeks (FYI – this is pretty much the only productive thing we’ve been doing so don’t feel too bad for us!)  It is really difficult because we are going to be in so many different places over the next year – hot weather, cold weather, diving, trekking, walking around in cities, going out to restaurants, etc.  There is no one solid wardrobe for all of these situations –  for example, I don’t want to wear hiking/trekking clothes out to a nice restaurant in Buenos Aires nor do I always want to look like the quintessential traveler/tourist with hiking shoes and dry fit t-shirts when I’m living in a place such as Medellin for a month.

By doing a lot of research on products, reading through a zillion other travel blogs, and using our guts – we have finally completed our packing list for one year around South America. It was ugly but we did it.  Here is some information that I found useful during this process and I hope can shed light on the packing process to anyone else who is beginning it!


  1. Your own closet – I tried to utilize what I already had as much as possible but since we have been trying to save money over the past couple of years, my clothing selection is slim and not great quality.
  2. Amazon – I purchased the majority of what I needed through Amazon after doing a lot of research since it is a one stop shop, the prices are good, and you don’t have to leave the comfort of your glowing computer.
  3. REI – I think every traveler has made a purchase here at some time or another because they really have everything you need from clothes to gear, but not the prices are on the higher end.
  4. Cabela’s – I didn’t have much luck at Cabela’s in regards to women’s clothing but in terms of gear and men’s clothing, it is definitely cheaper than REI.  Dan found a good amount of things he needed here.
  5. Groupon Goods – I purchased a couple of items here for the low prices.
  6. Patagonia – I bought a dress from there but couldn’t really afford much else.  The prices are high but the clothes are made sustainably and they only buy from companies who give their workers good wages.
  7. Try to shop at stores and buy products you are already comfortable with and know will last.  For me, I bought some sports bras at Target because I have some from there that have lasted me for years.  I also know that I love Teva Sandals so I stuck with them instead of Chocos.


In regards to buying the gear and clothing that we needed, I would highly recommend to others to take more time to look around and find the cheapest option (which isn’t necessarily what we did at first).  You of course want your possessions to be of a good quality since you will be using them for a year so I’m not suggesting to buy cheap products but to seek out a good deal on the good products that you are looking for.  For example, I noticed that buying some products on Amazon or Groupon Goods was much cheaper than buying it directly from the company.  We also bought some items and then ended up returning them later after thinking about it or finding a cheaper option somewhere else.

I would also recommend to anyone looking to do this long term, plan to save extra money for buying gear and clothes for your trip.  I don’t know why I never really thought about it ahead of time but the sticker shock of how much we needed and spent, was like a punch in the stomach.  Also, if you are starting from square one (don’t have any travel gear), plan to save even more.

When it was all said and done, we probably spent about $2,000 (not including the new MacBook Air we purchased) and a good $1,000 of that was spent at REI.  AH!


Christie’s Clothes

  1. Bottoms
    1. 1 pair jeans (the world wears jeans and I have read time and time again that travelers are so happy that they brought with them a pair of jeans)
    2. 1 pair North Face lightweight travel pants
    3. 2 pairs of yoga pants (one long and one capri)
    4. 1 pair of athletic shorts
  2. Tops
    1. 3 tank tops (one dry fit, one casual, one nicer)
    2. 4 t-shirts (2 dry fit, one casual, one nicer)
    3. 1 Marmot long sleeve reversible shirt
  3. Dresses
    1. Women’s Patagonia Spright Dress
    2. 1 other casual dresses that I already owned
  4. Jackets
    1. 1 rain coat
    2. 1 fleece
    3. 1 baseball hat
  5. Feet
    1. Socks
      1. 2 pairs of hiking socks
      2. 2 pairs of regular socks
    2. Shoes
      1. 1 pair of Salomon’s Trail Runners (i choose trail runners instead of hiking shoes or boots so that I could use them as hiking shoes and shoes to exercise in)
      2. 1 pair of GoWalk 2 by Sketchers (these are not the cutest but SO comfortable)
      3. 1 pair of black ballet flats by Lucky
      4. 1 pair of Teva Sandals 
  6. Underwear
    1. Bras – 2 sports bras and 1 regular bra
    2. Underwear – 8 regular pairs and 2 ExOfficio pairs
  7. Beach
    1. 2 swimsuits – 1 bikini for the beach and 1 one-piece for diving
    2. 1 pair sunglasses
    3. 1 travel towel 

Dan’s Clothes

  1. Bottoms
    1. 1 pair of jeans
    2. 2 Marmot lightweight hiking pants
    3. 2 khaki shorts
    4. 1 pair of athletic shorts
  2. Tops
    1. 1 long sleeve UnderArmour shirt
    2. 3 dry fit t-shirts
    3. 1 long sleeve dry fit shirt
    4. 2 NorthFace lightweight polos
    5. 1 cotton t-shirt
  3. Jackets
    1. 1 fleece
    2. 1 REI Men’s Motility Jacket
    3. 1 baseball hat
    4. 1 winter hat
  4. Feet
    1. Socks
      1. 3 pairs of Nike dry-fit socks
      2. 2 pairs of Cabela’s SmartWool hiking socks
    2. Shoes
      1. 1 pair of Asics tennis shoes
      2. 1 pair of Sperry’s
      3. 1 pair Teva flip flops
      4. 1 pair Cabela’s hiking boots
  5. Underwear
    1. 7 pairs of ExOfficio
  6. Beach
    1. 1 bathing suit
    2. 1 pair of prescription sunglasses
    3. 1 travel towel (same as Christie’s)


  1. Backpacks
    1. 2 Osprey Aura 65 (this pack is definitely bigger than what most people recommend but we already had these from our honeymoon in Peru and didn’t want to splurge on new packs.  Most travelers recommend something in the 30-40 maybe even 50 range).
    2. Day packs
      1. Dan – Fieldline Tactical Daypack
      2. Christie – Osprey Daylite 13L
  2. 1 small over the shoulder purse and wallet for Dan (hehe)
  3. Packing Cubes (small, medium, large)
  4. 2 rain covers for our large backpacks


  1. Cannon Rebel T2 Camera
  2. 2 Kindles
  3. 1 MacBook Air Computer
    1. Dropbox – to save all of our pictures
    2. Spotify – for music
    3. Skype and Google Hangout for talking with friends and family back home
  4. 2 Cell Phones – Dan and I both have cell phones that can have SIM cards inserted into them (HTC Evo and iPhone 5)
  5. Adaptors – Make sure to check this site to see what kind of socket and voltage the country has
  6. 2 flashlights
  7. Cannes mini speaker
  8. Secur Solar Power Charger
  9. 2 watches (I just bought a cheap water-proof Casio)
  10. Extra batteries and chargers for all of this stuff

Toiletries and Medicine

  1. Medicine
    1. Prescriptions – I was able to have my doctor give me a few months worth of free samples of the medication I take and also write me a prescription for 6 months so that I would have enough to take with me on the trip.
    2. Ibuprofen
    3. Pepto Bismal
    4. Dramamine
    5. Melatonin
    6. Multi-Vitamins
  2. First Aid Kit
  3. Steripen
  4. Tampons – I have read that they are quite hard to come by in South America so I stocked up!
  5. Make-up
    1. Mascara
    2. Blush
    3. Chapstick
    4. Compact Mirror
  6. Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
  7. Deodorant
  8. Razor and refills
  9. Hairbrush, hair ties, bobby pins, Buff
  10. Sunscreen
  11. 4 empty plastic bottles to fill with shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc.
  12. Hand sanitizer
  13. Face wipes
  14. Nail clipper, nail file, tweezers

Documents (*we also made photo copies of each document and emailed it to ourselves and our parents in case of emergency)

  1. Passports
  2. WHO Cards
  3. Driver’s License
  4. Chase Sapphire Credit Card, Chase Debit Card and Charles Schwab Debit Card
  5. PADI Scuba Diving Card
  6. International Driver’s License
  7. Copy of Travel Insurance (we decided to use World Nomads)
  8. Cash


  1. 2 S-biner clips
  2. 2 Nalgene water bottles
  3. Scuba googles and dive log (I like to use my own googles when diving)
  4. Deck of cards
  5. Notebook and pens
  6. Plastic baggies
  7. Dirty clothes bag
  8. Sleep mask for Dan
  9. Tarot cards
  10. Colombia Lonely Planet


  1. Pack, re-pack, and re-pack again.  It’s annoying, it’s cliche, but it works.  I was able to fit all of the clothes I needed into two packing cubes – YES ALL OF THEM (minus what I was wearing on the plane).  In addition to this, give yourself time to pack.  We packed, went on vacation in NC for a week, and then came back to it – it gave me some clarity and helped me make better decisions.
  2. Spend the money and take the time to get anything that will make your life easier – organizers for your bag, better quality products, etc.
  3. The lighter the better – for obvious reasons.
  4. Do as much research as possible and draw from other’s packing lists and experiences.  However, this will ultimately be the stuff you have for an entire year and each person’s needs are different – listen to your gut!
  5. Have a good play list to ease the dread (if you hate packing like me).
  6. Pack with pets – they make it so much more fun.My packing buddy

I couldn’t have made this list without referencing other travel blogs.  I took all of their advice seriously and made the most comprehensive list that will hopefully work best for Dan and I.  Here are some of the other blogs that I utilized:

6 thoughts on “How We Fit the Next Year into Four Packs

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