Packing My Bags: Making a List and Checking it Twice

How does one pack for a five month trip, especially when traveling abroad? It’s a question I’ve been hearing quite often lately, and my answer is quite simple: keep everything to a minimum (insert laugh track here). To help reduce the load I can do laundry along the way, go to the store for unexpected needs, and ship things home if my bags start to get a little on the heavy side. However, I’ll still need to be prepared to deal with weather (it will be the rainy season in Southeast Asia), a range of temperatures (summer in Southeast Asia to winter in South Africa), mild maladies and injuries (colds, traveler’s diarrhea, sprained ankles, etc.), and differing airline luggage requirements.

To account for as many variables as I can, my plan is to have enough clothes to last two weeks while relying on technology to reduce the need for books and other heavy, clunky items. I’ll also have to fit everything in two backpacks (one I can check and one I can use as a carry-on) because it will be easier to lug around and help ensure I meet any bothersome airline requirements restricting you to one carry-on.

Anyway, here’s a more detailed list of what I’m planning:


  • 9 x Polo shirts (counts as business attire when I’m in Vietnam)
  • 1 x Dress shirt (just in case I get invited to a fancy dinner or event)
  • 4 x Short sleeve t-shirt
  • 1 x Long sleeve t-shirt
  • 14 x Undershirts
  • 14 x Boxers
  • 2 x Shorts
  • 2 x Khakis
  • 1 x Jeans
  • 1 x Belt
  • 14 x Pairs of socks (I figure that I can be excused for wearing white socks with khakis and dress shoes)
  • 1 x Pair dress socks
  • 1 x Gym shorts (need something to sleep in and wear if I go jogging)
  • 1 x Bathing suit
  • 1 x Tennis shoes
  • 1 x Flip Flops (can’t leave home without them)
  • 1 x Dress Shoes
  • 1 x Fleece (for those cool winter days in South Africa)
  • 1 x Baseball cap (my best defense against the rain)
  • 1 x Knit hat (for those chilly winter nights in South Africa)


  • Electric razor (trims the beard and the hair)
  • Toothpaste
  • Tooth brush
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Bar soap (should be lighter and last longer than body wash)


  • Tablet (with the Kindle app I can download books and travel guides and not worry about those heavy books weighting down my bags)
  • Netbook (for more heavy duty uses like updating this blog and uploading pictures)
  • International cell phone (with a SIM card purchase in each country, I’ll have a handy local phone)
  • Camera
  • iPod
  • Wireless mouse (for the netbook)
  • Power converters


  • Proof of Yellow Fever vaccination (required in many African countries for entry)
  • Copies of itinerary, reservations, and other important documents
  • List of important phone numbers


  • Malaria pills
  • Cipro (for bad cases of traveler’s diarrhea)
  • Immodium AD
  • Advil
  • First aid kit (all purpose solution for those minor maladies)

Outdoor Gear

  • 2 x bug repellent cream
  • 1 x bug repellent spray
  • 1 x Permethrin (bug repellent which clothes can be doused in, should be quite¬† helpful around all those nasty bugs while on the safaris)
  • 1 x Sunglasses
  • 1 x Headlamp (makes it easier to see at night, especially useful for avoiding marauding lions on those camping safaris)
  • 1 x 50 SPF Sunscreen (the malaria pills – I opted for the cheap ones – will make me sun sensitive)

Other Important Stuff

  • 6 x Single load laundry detergent packs (in case I can’t make it to a market or I need to do laundry in the hotel sink)
  • 1 x Travel Towel
  • 2 x Combination luggage locks
  • 1 x Pocket knife (never know when it might come in handy)
  • 1 x Backpack/day pack
  • 1 x Moleskine Journal (can serve as a diary and scrapbook)
  • 1 x Dry bag (keeps the electronics dry)
  • 1 x Garbage bag (need to stash dirty laundry somewhere)
  • Maps

2 thoughts on “Packing My Bags: Making a List and Checking it Twice

  1. Sounds like an awesome trip. My only advice to you, and this comes from my own travels: you’re always packing too much. You must have pretty good size back to fit all the clothes you’re planning. My suggestions: try shooting for closer to a week-1.5weeks between washings. Realize that your polo shirts can be worn 2-3 times between washings (at home I rarely wear clothes more than once before tossing them in the hamper, but on the road I go until they smell). Also, I would say switch some of those undershirts out for regular t-shirts that can be worn by themselves or as an undershirt.

    Just the thoughts of a guy who just got back from two months around South America with a 65 litre backback.

    Have an f’in blast! Can’t wait to read about your adventures.

    • Yeah, once I started packing I realized how many clothes I had planned to take. I’m down to about 9-10 days worth at the moment, which should be enough to get me through until I can get to a hostel or volunteer accommodation and have access to laundry facilities.

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