I love packing. Seriously. I take way too much pleasure in deciding what things I will bring with me on a trip and strategically placing them in a travel bag. I think it’s mostly the excitement of knowing I’m about to go on a trip that brings me such pleasure- it’s the epitome of anticipation of travel for me. When I’m really excited, I will pack two weeks in advance. And then repack a few more times before I actually leave just for good measure (and to reignite the excitement!). Trust me, when you live in a remote community that’s isolated- you tend to get far more excited at the prospect of travel than the average person!
In this case, I started packing about 3 months before my departure date- okay, so that’s a little excessive. However, in my own defence, I do live in a remote community in the North where it is difficult to find travel gear, and most everything for my trip was purchased down south while on vacation, months prior – or online. So packing well in advance to ensure everything would fit and nothing was missing is not only understandable, but essential to good packing practices and being prepared!
I have never done any serious long term traveling before, so I spent a lot of time reading packing lists on blog posts of fellow travellers to get an idea of what I needed. From there I began to create my own huge list, constantly adding to it the more I read other’s lists. Then I spent some serious time studying my list and reluctantly taking things off that probably weren’t necessary, excitedly adding things I had missed, and modifying existing items until I felt I had a solid, albeit very long packing list. Don’t be alarmed by the size of your packing list- it will be long. Think about it- your entire life for a whole year or more, in one little back pack!
Once you have your list down, it’s time to start doing research on the specifics. At first your list will simply include things like ‘back pack, shoes, sandals, clothing, toiletries, passport belt” etc. From here you want to figure out exactly what type of back pack, shoes, sandals etc. you want. For some of you who are already avid travellers, you may have most of this gear, or know your preferences, but if you’re like me, and have never backpacked and have NONE of the gear- you’re starting at square one. I can’t tell you the number of hours I spent reading blogs, then researching particular items and reading their reviews before even getting an idea of what I wanted. The research of your gear is vital- if you want to be protected, safe, dry, warm, cool, clean and comfortable, it’s worth every hour of research. We only have a small sports store in town, with little selection at inflated prices, so I couldn’t rely too heavily on it for my gear. Nevertheless, I still went and tried on all their back packs, jackets and clothing, and took pictures of the tags to remember the product names. Then I went online to read reviews about each of the products to narrow it down.
In the end, I decided to make a stop over in Edmonton on my way to my mom’s wedding this past summer so I could hit up the Mecca of Canadian sports stores, MEC- Mountain Equipment Coop (pardon the pun!). I did loads of research before heading to MEC to ensure I knew about some of the products beforehand as I only had a day and a half to explore the whole store and outfit myself for an entire year.
I picked up the majority of my gear from MEC, but also made a few purchases at Sportchek, Atmosphere and a few online through Amazon. Below is a break down of my list by category:
Health and Beauty Essentials:
This is probably the one area where my ‘preparedness’ tendencies went into overdrive. I know I can find most of this stuff as I travel but I wanted to feel safe and prepared right off the get go. This may have also shown me that I’m a little more high maintenance than I thought, and so I suspect over time as I get used to travelling, many of these things will fall off my radar and be left behind.
-Jewelry: I’m not bringing much, as I want to buy local, inexpensive jewelry. Also, I don’t want to be a target because I’m wearing some flashy jewelry from home, so I just brought a few basics and used a small travel tackle box, which is genius for storing jewelry, even when not traveling- I use a full size one at home!
-Toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, superfloss (I have a bottom retainer), regular floss and floss picks- not having access to paid dental care, I want to take really good care of my pearlies!
-Sunscreen face lotion 60SPF, regular face lotion, waterproof 30SPF sunscreen, deodorant
-Small bag with nail polish, cuticle trimmer, nail clippers, file and small polish remover
-Contacts container, solution and eyedrops, and a load of daily contacts (my eyes can’t handle anything more unfortunately, and while I won’t wear these every day, I will need them for things like scuba diving and other sports/adventures where glasses are inappropriate)
-Large bag of ear plugs- I absolutely cannot sleep without these. I have been wearing them every night since I was about 17. They are an absolutely necessity for my sanity!
-Lip chaps- okay I have a serious addiction and also lose these like nobody’s business, so I am bringing LOTS. I need to have one in every pocket basically. They all contain sunscreen because nothing is worse than sunburnt lips!
-Shower/hair stuff: loofa, soap (in container), solid conditioner and shampoo, liquid weekly shampoo and conditioner, curl cream, hairspray, serum, 3 disposable razors, compact hairbrush
-Q tips and make up remover pads
-Feminine products: condoms, lube, moon cup, tampons, (I only brought a few tampons because I’m on the Mirena IUD which in a few months should stop my period completely, but I also use the moon cup in place of tampons, but I’m bringing a few just in case)
-Assorted types of hair ties and bobby pins in small bag
-Make up – I think I’ve gone over board here, as I really don’t wear much make up, so I think I will cut this down before I go: 5 make up brushes (blush, powder, eyes x3); brown, black white, purple and blue eyeliner; brow pencil and brow tint, cream blush, solid blush, powder, 3 colours of eyeshadow, one shadow pallet with 6 colours, clear mascara for brows, mascara, 3 lip colours. Jesus. Seriously overboard.
-Medicine Cabinet: chimes ginger chews, ginger gravel tabs, pepto bismol, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, gravel, imodium, ricola cough drops, tums, medical tape, assorted bandages and blister patches, all tucked nicely into a bag
-3 pairs sunglasses (2 are prescription), 1 pair spare eye glasses, because surely I will break or lose a pair!
These are items I plan to carry in my purse with me whenever I’m out and about or in transit without access to my larger pack- the absolute essentials:
-2 lip chap
-small wad of toilet paper
-compact extra bag (for shopping!)
-hand held collapsable fan
-inflatable travel pillow
-RFID covers for my credit cards
-reading lamp (unfortunately my Kobo is not backlit)
-harmonica (okay, so it’ not essential, but it’s on my bucket list to learn it, so it’s coming everywhere with me!)
This was a hard and heavy list to make. Because I want to make blogging a huge part of my adventure, I had to be willing to sacrifice some room and weight in my bag for this stuff. Most of this will be in my daypack and always easily accessible and within sight
-2011 Macbook pro 11″ (this beast is 5lbs, far heavier than I wanted to bring, but it still works great, and I didn’t want to drop over $1000 on new gear just to save 3 pounds)
-Nikon coolpix P510 camera, with case, extra battery, charger and envy harness
-GoPro 3+ silver with LCD backpack, extra housings, head mount, 3 way mount, extra battery, charger and case
-Nikon coolpix S31 point and shoot waterproof camera, charger, case and float strap
-iPhone 4S and 2 chargers
-32gb ipad touch for music
-2tb Silicon Power external harddrive (doesn’t need case, is water resistant and shockproof)
-one 64, two 32 and two 8 gb thumb drives
-2 pairs of headphones
-Universal plug adaptors
-Kobo reader and charger
I decided to bring with me basic clothing that will wear well for travel in warm climates – moisture wicking, quick drying, breathable etc. I bought most of this gear brand new as I didn’t own any high quality clothing for travel. I plan to buy more clothing locally as I travel (if I can fit it in my pack!).
2 long sleeve shirts
3 tank tops
1 yoga tank top
1 pair of hiking pants
1 pair of warm black leggings
1 pair of good hiking shorts
2 pairs of casual shorts
1 pair of pj shorts
1 pair yoga shorts
1 bando bra
2 sports bras
3 cotton panties
5 quick dry panties
1 pair thick wool socks
6 pairs merino wool socks
1 rain jacket
1 pair trail hikers
1 pair strap on sandals
1 baseball cap
*not pictured- one scarf, 1 pair mittens, one toque, 1 pair flip flops – the undergarments are hiding in a compression sack under the hat!
-1 silk liner for bedding in hostels
-1 large microfiber towel
-1 mini microfiber towel (used as facecloth or for hair)
-water purification tabs
-life straw (water purification)
-bed bug spray
-alarmed door jam
-glasses repair kit
-mini duct tape
-2 extra strap pieces for backpack
-heavy duty reusable twisty ties
-collapsable water bottle
-1 large mosquito net
-lightweight yoga mat (to be strapped to outside of bag)
-Sivanada Yoga book
-small file of all my paperwork and documents
This is my list about three and a half weeks before departure. I was able to get everything into my pack without too much stress on the bag, but I want to it cut down so I have a little bit of spare room as I know I want to buy a few pieces of local clothing to wear while traveling through Latin America. If you have any recommendations on items I should leave behind (or any I’ve missed!) please let me know!